My Wordless Wonder...
By Shannon Marshall on August 24, 2011
Autism is a subject very near and dear to my heart. I find myself reading blogs and articles about autism all the time to connect with people going through the same things as me. They are a source of inspiration and support for me. They make me cry; they make me laugh; they give me hope. I don’t plan on always writing about autism, but I’m sure it will be a subject that pops up most often. If there’s ever a certain question you have about autism, go ahead and ask :)
My son Olin was diagnosed with severe autism at the age of 2, and is now 6 and is still non-verbal. I know a lot of my friends and family wonder what it’s like to have a child who doesn’t speak, and has never spoken (even though they rarely ask… I’m a bit of a mind-reader and I already know what they are thinking). Well, I would like to sum it up for you. My life is… a constant guessing game. It’s a series of gestures, pictures, head nods, reaching, kicking, pushing, pinching, and ear-piercing screeching to (ideally) come to a conclusion. Both of us end up tired at the end. When he’s sick, I don’t usually have any way to know until he’s at the point of tears and in so much pain and misery; that makes me feel horrible, but I know that I’m only human and I understand that this is just what comes with the territory with having a non-verbal child. Still, IT’S FRUSTRATING… but you know what I always tell myself??? At least I have my words to let out my frustration and to channel it; Olin doesn’t. I wonder how I might feel if no one understood what I was trying to say; Olin feels like that every second of every day, and he still manages to have a smile on his face 99.9% of the time! I am continuously hearing parents tell their children to be quiet… this is a thought that is beyond my realm. Every day I dream and long for Olin to speak (so how could I ever imagine telling him to be quiet?!), knowing that it will not only ease my frustration with autism, but his frustration as well. Sometimes I even forget what typical 6 year olds are like, the way that most of them can articulate their words and sound like little grown-ups, so I’m always very genuinely impressed by all childrens’ linguistic development! My friends are always laughing at me because their children are drawn to me because of how much I praise them for their accomplishments... I can't help it; it's just ingrained in me now (and all kids need self-esteem boosters anyway). And Olin’s development is so beyond words, that my focus isn’t usually on the fact that he doesn’t use our language. He speaks and communicates in so many other ways; he’s a resourceful kid! He has the cutest humming sound he makes when he’s happy, and it is one of the best sounds in the world.
Now, I’m lucky enough to also have a daughter. Her name is Ruby, and she’s 2 going on 22. She’s happy, rambunctious, boisterous, demanding - basically she’s her brother with words. Ruby loves to speak for her brother and jump to his defense if he’s ever getting in trouble. She gets excited when he reaches new milestones, and always says “I’m so proud of you, Olin” (I get teary-eyed every time). I love watching their relationship develop. Olin has blossomed so much since becoming a big brother. I also enjoy watching him play keep away with her because he realizes how much taller he is and he can just hold said object of desire out of her reach. She jumps up and down reaching for it, and he smiles the entire time. Obviously I don’t enjoy watching Ruby get angry and sad, but the fact that he’s playing keep away with her is such an awesome cognitive and social milestone!!!!!!!!! I always just tell her to find something else to play with, because Olin rarely wants something so badly, and it’s always followed by a glum “Okkaaaaayyy,” and she quickly moves on to usually play games on my phone or coloring. I'm hoping that I can explain Olin's diagnosis of Autism to her very soon, but I think she already knows.
In short, I love my life. It's crazy/challenging/fun... and I just roll with the punches ;)
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