I'd have to say that for me personally the hardest part of Sophie's autism is her nonverbal-ness. I am a hyper-verbal person- a reader, a writer and a TALKER. I love lectures, metaphors, literature, psychobabble, analyzing and over-analyzing books and movies... Yup I definitely exist in the realm of verbosity. I couldn't wait for my kids to develop language so I could read them stories, tell them about the world and answer all their questions. Before they talked I had only a vague idea as to their personalities, but when we could communicate they came into a sharper focus as real little people with unique opinions and thoughts. I loved that.
Sophie started out talking, quite early in fact. She had a lot of nouns (usually food-related) and names (friends, family and Thomas engines). She had between 50 and 75 words in her vocabulary I'd estimate. Most of the time she would repeat after us or use words to request things. She also liked listing names of friends who came to visit that day (lots of little people visit everyday). I have to say I took her speech for granted. Yes, she talked early, but all my kids did. I never expected her NOT to talk. So when she stopped I assumed it was temporary. Surely if we keep talking to her she would start talking again right?
It's been a year since her regression. She's come a long way in that year. But while her pre-verbal skills seem to be intact (she babbles, makes requests, eye contact, even uses PECS if so inclined) speech still eludes her. She does have a couple short words and her babbling seems to be getting more complex. I long to hear her voice though, hear her chatter once again. She was a real chatterbox as a one-year old. How fleeting were those moments, how quickly they slipped into dreamlike memories.
But it is bittersweet. Days spent with a toddler who is unnaturally quiet have a meditative, zen-like tone. Many times I catch myself chatting incessantly and really, needlessly. Does she care about my constant drone? Look at this, look at that, see the plane, see the squirrel. She sees without me pointing it out I'm sure.
|Sophie on one of her many paths|
If she doesn't think in words how does she think? I think she thinks in pictures like Temple Grandin; she is an intensely visual person. I suspect she has a photographic memory too. Her special talent is routes and directions. This girl is able to process the layout of a location the first time she visits and find what she is after without any effort. She's shown us over and over that she can retrace her steps backwards to the entrance of a store she's never been in before or to a specific room in a multi-room school.
Sophie forced me to step out of my comfort zone. Move out of the verbal language mode and into a more visual one. I already model more than explain, do instead of say. But many times I still feel the need to narrate my actions, rely on words to convey my message. And I know that is important too, to familiarize her with the language which I know she will use one way or another. But I want to make the effort more often to visit Sophie in her world; full of images, and paths, and trees. And just shut up already.