The Au-Some A-Squad | Deeper than Words | Written by Megan Elizabeth
I have been a parent for eight years now, and I have yet to hear my children speak.
Speech and AAC is something we are constantly working at. My younger son, who has both autism and apraxia, has made some great progress with his verbal abilities. There are many sounds that he is able to make and we are starting to help him learn how to combine multiple sounds together to form a word. It’s extremely promising and gives me so much excitement to see how much he WANTS to speak!
However, we still have a lot of work to do.
I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been called ‘mommy’ in my eight years of parenting. I’ve never had my boys run to me after a long day at school, and tell me they love me or they missed me. I’ve never gotten to hear stories from their day or to answer their crazy questions as they try and navigate the world. We don’t talk about their hopes and fears. We don’t sing silly songs together on long car rides. There are no conversations.
And yet, despite all of this, I know them so well.
I may never hear “I love you”, but I can tell my boys love me by the smile on their faces and the way they sink into my lap after our time apart for their therapy sessions.
I may not be able to ask my boys how they are liking school, but I can see their excitement for it every morning as we wait and watch for the school bus. I can’t ask them if they have friends and if kids are kind to them, but I can tell they have great little buddies from the artwork and notes that come home in their backpacks from their classmates.
I can’t ask my boys if their sleep was disrupted by a bad dream, but I can tell they are frightened by something from the way they run to me in the middle of the night and grasp their little hands around my cheeks and stare into my eyes for comfort.
My kids may never ask me to take them somewhere on a weekend, but I can see their excitement when they notice our weekly destinations on our visual calendar. The way their faces light up and they start rocking and giggling in the backseat when we pull into a familiar parking lot lets me know we are in the right place.
My kids may never ask me to sing their favorite song with them, or even tell me that they enjoy my singing. However, I can tell it’s something they love by the way they run to me with a song playing on the iPad and tap my chin until I start singing along.
They may not be able to ask me for their favorite meal at dinner time, but they can use their AAC devices to request “more apples” and “more goldfish”, and they can grab me by the hand and race me into the kitchen to point at what they want in the pantry.
They can’t ask me to read a story to them or quote silly lines from a movie. However, they can cuddle up on the couch with me and get a huge smile on their face as they point to specific pictures and wait for me to quote that character’s lines.
Talking is great. Words are great. But I love communication more.
Communication can come in the form of pointing, leading someone to an object, using facial expressions to show emotion, pictures/symbols, and AAC devices. We don’t need words and verbal language to communicate with each other. The boys have taught me the power of nonverbal communication. They have taught me to listen to so much more than words.
Is there a degree of sadness in nonverbal (or better yet, preverbal) parenting? Of course there is. I would love to hear little voices coming out of my boys. I would love to hear about their experiences and their stories, and laugh at their little jokes. But as time continues on, I have learned to find the beauty in nonverbal communication. I have such an appreciation for the bond that the boys and I have, despite not being able to share conversations. My understanding of the boys, knowing intuitively what they want/need, and being able to communicate with them in other ways, is more important than any words I could ever say. Our bond and our strength is deeper than words.