Lucas doesn’t say any words. People ask about that sometimes, but the answer is no. He makes sounds and communicates his wants, but there isn’t a single word in the traditional sense.
Lately, he’s taken to babbling a bit, which they say is a positive sign. He will lean his head back and in this deep voice say, “ya-ya-ya-ya” or “da-da-da-da-da.” I video him and sing along to the classic Yin Yang Twins song with a similar beat. It would be great if he starts talking soon. It would also great if he didn’t. He’s just great as he is. He’s my guy.
So, forgive me if I get a bit defensive sometimes about him. I’ve lived a life where people have tried to take advantage of me on many occasions and me – I never shut up. So if I’m out here constantly voicing my opinions on everything from politics to wrestling matches and people still have ways of needling me, imagine how the world must view someone like him.
He’s like one of two special jewels I keep in my house and every day, I put that jewel on a bus and send it away to be handled by others for hours at a time. The other jewel is named Olivia. She talks. She comes back and yaks all the time about her day. She tells me who did what to do who and all the drama fit to print. She’s like an emerald with a huge vocabulary. Some words I don’t even know. “Chile?” What the heck?
My little aquamarine stone is Lucas and doesn’t say a word. He rolls off to school and comes tumbling back. I write in his notebook, ask about his day, and take everyone’s word for it. I trust the hands that he’s in, but I think a lot about what he’s doing outside my presence. Any note sent home from school about wayward behavior is met with a “what happened before that to set him off?” I ask because I know that a nine-year-old with words would be there at the ready to argue against any negative report from school with, “But Dad, they started it.”
It’s not just school either. At parties, get-togethers, or even around other caring adults, I can’t help but helicopter in the most aerial sense of the word. I watch him to make sure he doesn’t need me and everyone else to make sure they’re being nice to my boy. If kids are playing near, I watch closely. Other adults misconstrue my eagle eye and take it in only one way.
Oh, he’s fine. Don’t worry.
I know he’s fine and, yes, I am making sure he isn’t bothering the other children. However, I am also making sure I don’t have to punt your kid across the street.
Say what you will about society today, but this whole “PC” culture that everyone rails against actually works in Lucas’s favor. Non-verbal autism isn’t seen the way it was twenty years ago and I’m proud to say that most people treat him with kindness and respect. Of course, I can follow that up with “and they better or his dad will roundhouse kick them all in the face”, but I won’t. I don’t have to. But, yeah, I totally would. Road House.
The truth is, I’m his voice. I watch so I can defend him, but also for the signs that he’s tired or hungry or unhappy with a situation. When you have a child who doesn’t speak words, you learn to read certain mannerisms and know when things are coming to a head. I can always spot when Lucas is exhausted. Know how?
Are you guessing Yawning? Sure. That’s a sign. That, however, is universal and not always his go-to way of communicating his upcoming pass-out.
It’s giggling. Yes. Giggling uncontrollably. It’s as if he just remembered an off-color funny joke and it knocks him on his butt. He puts on this big toothy grin and begins bouncing in place hysterically. Everyone around chuckles too because, honestly, it’s adorable.
If I haven’t removed him from the situation and sent him off to dreamland yet, that’s when he starts tapping like he’s on the losing end of a UFC battle. I call it his “final tap-out.” That means he’s done. It’s his final tap before.
Poof. Out cold.
From there, I’m screwed. I have to pick up Little Mr. Butterball and roll his butt up to bed. He’s dead weight and it becomes a one-way conversation of me telling him that he’s cutting down on bread. Inevitably, by the time I tuck him in, he sits right up and then passes back out.
I know this about him through years of observations, trials, and errors. Others might not. For me, that is what advocacy truly is. It is what makes me his voice when he can’t express himself. While his talking device might be his translator of choice for pizza and toy requests, things like “I’m tired, get me the eff out of here” aren’t readily pushed on his communication tablet. That’s up to his dad.
So, yes. I am watching always. Call it helicopter parenting. Call it over parenting. Call it whatever you want. We call it “love” and he might not be able to say it, but I can say it for both of us. That’s how this whole thing works.
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