Love has a language of its own, and even kids who have autism and are non-verbal can express it. We just have to know how to ask, be patient, and be willing to listen.
It's been a little over a year since my 6-year-old, Liam, who has autism, said his first "I Love You" using Rapid Prompting Method (RPM), but I still adore telling this story. I tell it to every parent I meet who's struggling with a child's new diagnosis. I remind my husband of it when we're feeling tired or stressed. I wanted to share it with you, as I told it on Facebook last winter.
January 29, 2014
Big deal, huge moment today. Wait for it...
Liam had session two of RPM this morning. He was amazing and so on it that the therapist and I realized that he clearly knows all of his letters as he was pointing (on his own) to them with ease, as she spelled with him (really, I have it on video). We've also been using a YES/NO board at home to give him more choices. Things like, "Are you ready to take a bath? Do you want to eat?", etc.
Well, this afternoon, I wanted to test his comprehension of the YES/NO concepts a bit as we ate lunch. Communication like this is often attacked because people believe the kids are "not really answering, just randomly pointing."
Liam, do you like your chicken? (which he's ignoring)
Liam touches NO
Liam, do you like your cereal? (which he's devouring)
Liam touches YES
Do you want some of my lettuce? (I hold up a piece of my salad)
Liam touches NO.
I rush and tell [my husband] Adam about this. He grabs the YES/NO board and tells me, "This is going to make you cry."
Adam (with a sly smile): Liam, do you love your mommy?
Liam points to YES, and then turns to me with a beaming smile.
Liam, do you love your Daddy?
Liam points to YES, and then resumes jumping on the bed.
So, yes, this was the first time we've ever "heard" our son tell us that he loves us. What a day. What a great, great day.
That was such a simple, quick moment, but it changed everything in our house. Now, more than a year later, we're so much more aware of the deliberate ways Liam shows his love--through hugs, word approximations, snuggles, and interacting with us-- and we're constantly asking him questions, teaching him, and learning how to communicate with him better. I can't wait to see what the next year brings!
Jamie Pacton lives near Lake Michigan where she drinks loads of coffee, dreams of sailing, and enjoys each day with her husband and two sons, Liam (6) and Eliot (4). Her writing has appeared in the Autism and Asperger's Digest (2011-2013), Parents, and the book collectionMonday Coffee and Other Stories of Parenting Kids with Special Needs. Find her at www.jamiepacton.com, Facebook (Jamie Pacton), and Twitter (@jamiepacton).
Photo of Jamie and Liam courtesy of Jamie Pacton