I Constantly Speak To My Non-Verbal Son

I start talking to my non-verbal son as soon as I see him in the morning. Filled with glee for the day ahead, he’s usually clutching his iPad and screeching with delight when I pass his door. His infectious smile kicks off any morning with a dose of happiness.

What’s up, little man? You good? You ready to get up? Huh? Let me grab some coffee and I’ll come back and get you. Yes. Hi. Hi. Hi. Hang on. Hello. Yes. I love you. Hang on…

I stumble down the stairs and prepare to begin our day of mostly one-sided conversations. No one on this planet hears me talk more than my son Lucas does. 

Being non-verbal with autism makes Lucas somewhat of a captive audience. While his neurotypical 14-year-old sister might grow annoyed, he’s okay with all the discussions. Just as I overlook how he shouts or screams over my TV show, he’s alright with me making random small talk over his Sesame Street Youtube video. Autism acceptance goes both ways.

Alright, punk ass. Breakfast time. You hungry? You want to eat? Lucas. Look up. Want to eat? OK. I have waffles and, um, waffles. You want to eat waffles? OK. Waffles. Side of Jack Daniels? No. You don’t drink Jack Daniels. You’re a little kid. You eat waffles. Don’t tell them at school that I offered you Jack Daniels.

I think it’s why I would get so offended when people told me that the key to “fixing” his language barrier was to speak to him more. It’s simply not possible. If people realized how much this child hears my voice, they’d realize the ridiculousness of such a request.

jg lucas

When we migrate into the den downstairs, Lucas’s favorite spot, the convos only ramp up. Seated upon his own personal recliner in the corner, my boy will clap and rock to his favorite videos. As he does, I sit on the sectional couch, right in front of him, and call out random nonsense.

Are you watching this show I have on TV? You seeing this? That guy looks like, what’s his name? Hal Linden? Yeah. Hal Linden from Barney Miller. You know Barney Miller? It was like a cop show sitcom. It’s before your time. Actually, it was before my time too. I used to watch reruns of it on channel 11. He still alive? Hal Linden? I’m going to Google it.

I look over. Lucas is in one of three states. He’s either making eye contact with me, focused on his iPad, or halfway up the stairs. The first one sometimes gets me a cute wave and the last one forces me to bellow his name until he returns.

Yup! Hal Linden! Still alive at 91. Go, Hal Linden. Clean living, Lucas. Gotta live clean. Actually, I don’t know if he lived clean. He might be shooting smack up in the alleys. I doubt it, but still. Don’t quote me on that. I’ll deny it. You hear me? I’ll deny it.

Of course, most of this is small talk nonsense. While I know my son has receptive language in terms of needs, wants, and demands, a deeper conversation about 1970s sitcom actors and their health habits is a bit abstract. Still, he’s here and I’m going to talk to him about everything.

If I’m being honest, it’s not always just words either. Sometimes it’s a random tune that comes singing out of my face. I will walk by and suddenly serenade him with silliness.

Loo-kiss. Loo-kiss. I love you-kiss. Loo-kiss. Loo-kiss. Peak-a-boo-kiss.

Hug. Squeeze. Tickle. Massive laughter.

Why? I don’t know. He’s huggable? I have never been around a more squishable person than my son. It’s his gimmick.You can’t help but squeeze my kid.

father son autism

Our conversations don’t just end there. Lucas hears about all my pressing issues throughout the day. In some cases, I start somewhat in the middle. He’s a great sounding board.

That was crazy before, right? Do you believe that? Who says that to someone? I was like, no way. You can’t let people push you around. You got my back, right? I got your back. We’re boys.

Sometimes, as I’m babbling along, I will feel a tap on my head. It’s my son, up from his recliner and stalking me from behind the couch. Standing just behind my cushioned skull, he will lean over and kiss me directly on the forehead…and eyeball. It’s wet and slimy and adorable.

Thank you, buddy. I love you.

Days like this are what I live for and they happen whenever we are together. Whether it’s returning from school, walking through a Target, or a lazy afternoon at home, we talk. If we are together, there’s language. He might not understand everything I am trying to say and I might not understand everything he wants to communicate, but none of that matters. 

Even if he never grasps most of what I tell him, I am OK with it. I know that, at the least, he realizes that no one on this planet talks to him as much as I do. That’s something I know he understands and that’s the thing that’s truly most important. It lets him know I love him.




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