By GRACE CLARK
Special To The Courant
3:05 PM EDT, March 28, 2014
My son, Cash'an, has really good receptive language. That is, he receives and follows through on most directions, even though he does not have the extensive verbal ability to tell me that he understands what I'm saying. His actions basically speak for themselves. One day recently, just before I brought him to his grandmother's house, I had him stand still and face me so I could relay the following: "I have to go out tonight to Camiryn's (his sister) school so you are going to grandma's house. If you want to sleep before I get back, you can stay at grandma's house and go to school from there tomorrow. I will come see you." He responded by pointing to the kitchen cupboard where his favorite cereal is kept. I smiled and told him to get some cereal, wondering as usual how much he got from what I said.
Later in the car, when we got to my mother's house, he grabbed his overnight bag I had packed, and gave me a kiss as he started to open the door to get out the car. To my surprise, he turned back to grab his school backpack, which happened to be in the back of the car, left from the day before.
I was told when Cash'an was first diagnosed with autism eight years ago, to just keep talking to him. It's hard sometimes because even when I do, he doesn't really respond, though I believe he is listening. Over the years, I've seen him connect with me more as his eyes connect with mine while I talk to him. Eye contact, as well as, the ability to read facial expressions or discern emotions, are all void from many children with autism, and the lack of these abilities are noticeable characteristics of this disorder. I've found that as my son has gotten older and the more I explain about things we are going to do, or react to things he brings home from school, like artwork, the more he seems connected to me and the world around him. He is also less agitated when daily family routines or activities change.
If I could pass on anything to a parent who is searching for a way to reach their child, it would be to keep talking and showing them things, even if it seems they aren't paying attention. Cash'an was. By taking that school backpack out of the car on his own, without prompting, he gained independence and a confidence about understanding how a life process works. Just because he has limited verbal skills, this does not mean he can't think, comprehend or have emotions. I didn't know if he was listening, but I wanted him to know he mattered, and that things don't always just happen around him. He heard me.
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