Even before we had an official diagnosis of autism, we knew that Ethan was developmentally delayed in several areas....including his speech. As Ethan's mom, I personally felt responsible for this delay. After all, I was not only the majority caregiver as well as a former teacher, but Ethan was my only child. If he had developmental delays, it was because I was not doing a good job as his mother. (I now realize how ridiculous this thought is, but that is how I felt at the time.)
So, I researched (& researched & researched) what I could do in order to help Ethan developmentally catch up in all areas, but mainly his speech. I so desperately wanted to communicate with my child that I was willing to do just about anything. And so, I found all of the standard advice.....read to your child, sing to your child, play verbal games such as peekaboo with your child, talk to your child even if they aren't talking yet, etc.
Well, I did all of these things 100%, and Ethan was just NOT interested in ANY of it. He just wanted me to leave him alone & let him play with his toys. So, as a result, most of my days ended up looking like, what I called, Jessica's Cooking Show. You know how on cooking shows they say what they are doing it as they are doing it & why they are doing it.....well that is what I would do most of our days together. It was exhausting....especially when it seemed like Ethan wasn't hearing a word I was saying.
One particular piece of advice was to talk about what things you see with your child while you are in the car or on a walk or in the store. So.....of course......I would do this, too. And I'm sure I looked pretty ridiculous talking to myself, but I was desperate to do all I could to communicate with my child. I can vividly remember the last 2 summers.....taking walks with Ethan in his stroller & talking about the trees, the cars, the wind, the birds, the grass, and everything else. The first summer, Ethan just seemed locked in his own thoughts to even look around at his environment. Last summer, Ethan was aware, but only was interested in the cars coming & going. He would become intensely upset when cars were no longer driving by us....he wanted to see and hear the cars moving all of the time.
Well, folks......I have a picture to share with you......
This is Ethan's nature jar of things he has been collecting on our walks this week. THIS summer, Ethan has been EXTREMELY interested in the things around him....smells, sounds, things, which direction we are going, and so on. We talk back and forth to each other the entire time we are walking! He is excited to find things for his jar. He is describing things....pointy, hard, purple, loud, etc......and he is pointing things out that I didn't even notice. During one of our walks, the sun and the moon were both out......and Ethan thought that was HILARIOUS! It was so wonderful! Communicating with my child! Having him be vividly aware of his world! Laughing that the moon & the sun are both out at the same time! AND HE IS ONLY FOUR YEARS OLD!!!! Look how far we have come in just 2 years!!!
Two summers ago, I would come home from our walks discouraged and usually....crying. It was so difficult to be doing all that I could and yet see no change in Ethan's speech. To wonder if Ethan would ever talk or even be interested in the world around him. But tonight, as we took a family walk, which means Daddy comes too, I am moved to tears for the exact opposite emotion. I am overjoyed to walk AND TALK with Ethan. To discover things anew through his fascinating mind.
When I thought about motherhood, this is what I envisioned, and I'm so blessed to be experiencing this with Ethan. In fact, at one point during our walk, my husband made the comment that he wasn't going to be able to talk to me because Ethan was chattering my ear off! And we both laughed as our hearts were rejoicing at this moment. And I privately sent up a prayer of thanks. My deepest prayer has been answered. After four years of heartache, I am able to communicate with my child. And there isn't a jar big enough to hold my joy!!!