Pwdin, my three and a half year old autistic son, loves Mammy, Daddy, catalogues and his sausage dog KaBoom. Perhaps more than any of these things though, he loves the sound of his own voice.
He had three words that he’d use meaningfully but by the time he was two “Wossiss?” (what’s this), “Daddad,” (Daddy) and “Boob,” (Mammy -yes he was breastfed) were long gone. “Daddad,” never exactly went but became, like “diggadiggadigga” just a sound he would repeat often for some length of time. It’s been a long while since he called me anything at all.
But, love his own voice he certainly does. Even as a tiny baby he’d gurgle and squeak away in his buggy, drawing the attention of anyone in earshot. His sounds soon morphed into tunes and I remember him at around a year old, still unable to sit unaided, happily oohing along with any song that reached his ears. Opera was always a favourite. I’m not contending that Pwd is a musical savant – nobody who’s ever heard his excited screams whenever he hears a soprano would think that but music reaches him in ways that ordinary language does not.
With the re-wording of the Abba song Super Trooper to Super Pooper we’ve given Pwd a way of expressing that he’s done a poo. He did that really well for a while but we now have to, again, rely on our noses or watch out for his John Wayne waddle. “I’m tired and want to cwtch up,” was signalled by a very cute “Innsha, innsha,” – Pwd’s version of Inchworm. It’s not all about trying to help him communicate though: he does a very impressive Old McDonald’s farm and a great Rehab “Nooo, Noo, Nuh!”
Since Pwdin was diagnosed as autistic in 2010, most therapy sessions and people working with him have tried and tried to get him to make eye contact and, to be fair, this is something that has, over time, shown improvement. I’m not sure if that has anything to do with trying to get him to look at pictures of ducks or cows or cars etc. I think it’s down to Pwd just wanting to and being ready to. His eye contact is selective and he keeps it for special moments and people he loves and trusts. Just like hugs and kisses, meeting your gaze with his has meaning for Pwd.
Lots of articles and books and blogs and websites and articles and pamphlets I’ve read often talk about autists as if, deep inside there is a “normal” person struggling to get out. The constant rhetoric of certain individuals and groups is the promise to free autist from autism as though it were a cage. Well inside my boy there is someone trying to get out and it’s quite possibly a musician or a dancer – an autistic musician or dancer. I hope over the coming years to be able to give him what he needs to express whoever he is. Autism is part of Pwd as much as his big blue eyes or his thick, golden hair. Eye contact may not be as useful to him as it seems to be to all those for whom it has been a preoccupation. So, while he’s still young, I’m going to try to teach him the skills he needs to accompany those he is already developing before our very eyes and ears. I’m not going to focus on eye contact. This boy, who ends every song he sings with a good, long “Oh Yeaaaah!” needs to learn how to do jazz hands!
To play us out, here’s my little Pwdin doing a drum solo:
Thank you to the wonderful site Mosaic of Minds for linking to this post xx