Since PJ is non-verbal, I have often wondered what his thoughts are. For years, I tried to get him to speak by paying for speech therapy. He also had speech therapy at school. It did not work. PJ is apraxic, which means that he has a speech impediment that he would have to overcome in order to speak. The speech therapists and I finally came to the realization that his speaking was important to us, but not to him. He did not want to work hard enough to overcome his impediment. We quit torturing him (and us) with constant speech therapy.
I have seen the success stories of people with autism who did learn to talk, but PJ is not one of them. Sometimes I can tell what is on his mind because he looks worried or holds his ears in pain, but for the most part it has been a guessing game. He is very good at letting you know what he does NOT want (usually after you have made the mistake of pushing him to do or eat something he doesn’t want).
I’ve said that we are not a success story, but when I look back at his behavior when he was younger, I can see how much he has grown and how far we have come. He used to spend his days jumping, flapping his hands, squealing, walking on furniture and trying to climb the drapes. He was always breaking the drapery rod and drapes were always on the floor, along with whatever he had cleared off the tables so that he could walk on them.
When he was jumping and flapping and squealing, I could not stand watching him. I would take his arms and hold them to his side and stop him from jumping. Then I read “Sunrise” by Barry Kaufman, who said that we should “resonate” with our autistic person by mirroring their behavior. So I started jumping, squealing and flapping and asking PJ “Why are we doing this?” PJ did not like my autistic behavior any more than I liked his, so he would hold my hands to my side and stop me from jumping. He showed me what his thoughts were about this behavior and soon stopped it.
Barry Kaufman is another of my heroes. He expanded on the book “Sunrise” by creating the Option Institute in Massachusetts to train parents and therapists in his methods of working with people with autism. The training is far too expensive for most of us, so I never really considered it as one of my options, but I did use some of his techniques, such as mirroring.
I want to include two more poems by David Eastham, the apraxic, non-verbal autistic man who was on the lower end of the autism spectrum. His condition was similar to PJ’s so, I like to think that his thoughts are also PJ’s. David was the first person on the lower end of the spectrum that I knew of who was able to share his thoughts. David’s thoughts had a great impact on me.
Good mothers like you / loving kind judge, you. / Mum could I love hope too.
Understand reason that I love you / I love you. / You try try / yes, you really do Please love stay true / Your ever old David.
They are among the angels / that a person knows. There / you see I’ve been there Touching early souls.
Teach a person kindness / Your way is best by far / Question your reasons / to help a kid become a star.
Until next time; May the Presence of God comfort you; May the Love of God enfold you.