“Will he ever be able to speak?” I remember asking the pediatric neurologist who diagnosed Norrin with autistic disorder & developmental delay.
Not wanting to offer false hope or further heartbreak, the doctor replied, “Let’s focus on getting Norrin the services he needs.“
For years we’ve worked with speech therapists. In those early months we waited and wondered if the words would ever come. We cheered and cried as each new word emerged from his mouth.
Norrin has learned to speak but he still struggles. His language varies between scripted and spontaneous. Often only those closest to him can understand what he says. And there are moments when I ask that he repeat himself.When Norrin repeats lines from movies or shows memorized, I wonder what he’s really trying to say. If he scripts I wonder if he doesn’t have the ability to say what he means. And when his speech is spontaneous – even if it’s as basic as asking for juice – I am relieved that he can express himself appropriately.
I try to ask him questions, I try to get him to talk to me. I try to get him to talk about things that aren’t part of a script or something he’s memorized. I am not always successful. His answers are almost always rote.
I have just returned from 4 days in LA. I don’t travel often but I when I do, I always worry about how Norrin will react to my absence. He doesn’t always like talking on the phone and when we FaceTime – he doesn’t stay within view for very long. But each time he asked me two questions:
- When are you coming home?
- What’s your favorite color?
Norrin doesn’t have to ability to express that he misses me. He’d ask me these two questions, wait for my response and then say “Okay…gotta go!” and he’d run off.
Related: He Said What?!
I would be lying if I said, it didn’t hurt. That I wish we could have a little more time to talk. I wish he could tell me about his day without having to prompt or pry it out of him. And I wish he would ask me questions about where I am or what I’m doing. I have to believe that he cares about me even though he barely wants to talk to me.
When Joseph and Norrin picked me up from the airport – Norrin’s first words were, “Mama you’re back.” He smiled and reached out for me.
If anyone were to ask me why I love Norrin I can tell them why a million times over. He can’t convey how much he loves me. And he rarely spontaneously says that he does. But when he does tell me he loves me, I have to believe it. Because his smile says it all.