“Goodnight Momma.” These words spoken by my little boy seemed to roll of his tongue so naturally. For a split second, it was almost as if a thick fog had been lifted off of him and he was able to clearly articulate his thoughts. For a moment, time stood still as I lay beside my little one thinking Did he really just say what I think I heard him say?
When children say something for the first time or have a huge breakthrough, the natural instinct of a parent is to cheer, clap their hands, or offer up a “Yay! You said ‘Goodnight Momma’! Way to go Ezra!” But I know better. I know that the best response for my sweet boy (Who has Autism) is to stay very calm and very quiet. So I laid there and softly whispered “Goodnight Ezra. I love you so much.” Of course internally, my heart was racing and the sound of my child’s sweet voice brought tears to my eyes. What a precious moment!
You see, I know and understand the great value of these words. These words were fought for. These words overcame the struggle of communication that battles on inside my precious son. These words are never to be taken lightly. These words also let me know that he understands “Nighttime”. These words let me know that Ezra knows my name. These words are precious. These words are rare.
I treasure moments like these and hang on to them tightly. Because the nature of Autism is that inevitably, the fog will settle on my little boy once more and the fight for words or communication of any sort will continue. This isn’t like a neurotypical child who crosses a developmental milestone and is able to repeatedly progress in that area. For my sweet boy, it may be weeks, months, or even years before I hear these sweet words again. I know they are locked away somewhere inside of him.
So what’s a parent like me to do? Well, I speak Ezra’s lingo. Every night when I lay down and snuggle my baby boy I pray over him, tell him how much I love him, let him know how proud of him I am, and I say “Goodnight Ezra.” During the day I talk to Ezra about everything. I tell him about my day, I ask him about his day, I tell him where we are going and what we are doing. I speak to him just like speak to my daughter, Grace. I give him words in hopes that he is taking it all in, storing it away in his little memory bank, and that he might be able to break through the fog of Autism and communicate once more.
I think one of the hardest questions is “How many words does your child have?” I can’t tell you how many times I have had to answer this question. They ask it at the doctor’s office, the therapists ask it, the school asks it, the service coordinators ask it…I could go on. And the truth of the matter is that I have no idea. There are words that Ezra has used more regularly that demonstrate comprehension, there is something called “scripting” that is very common with children who have Autism (where they script words that they have heard but it does not demonstrate comprehension at all), there is jabbering, echolalia, noises, and all sorts of other “terms” that are part of Ezra’s communication “skills”. I do believe Ezra knows much more than he is able to communicate. There is a lot that goes on in that little mind of his. I’m in no place to put a number on it…but I can tell you that it is such a sweet victory when he is able to bring a word out of his little mental file and express it. I pray that this will happen more and more for him.
Until then, I wait. I wait and I cherish every breakthrough and every little triumph. Can I tell you something? I’m sure that I’m a little bias, but Ezra has such a sweet little voice. Its soft, a little high pitched, and absolutely adorable! I am so thankful for sweet moments with my little man. I am so thankful for breakthroughs like this. Autism is definitely not for the faint of heart. Precious breakthroughs like this offer hope and joy to a momma like me!