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Non-verbal, not unable to communicate

As we come into the month of April, with its many cause awarenesses, I thought I would highlight one that is very near and dear to my heart. Autism Spectrum Awareness.

Of course, if you love someone on the spectrum, or work in that field, you are well aware that autism comes in many forms and cannot be defined as being one particular symptom.

We have a non-verbal grandson with severe ASD. I wrote a book about him ten years ago. At almost 14 he now has a few words, not very clear, but if you know him you can understand them. He also has a “speech device” that he can use, but his go to form of communication is still facial expressions and gestures.

Think about this for a moment. When was the last time you lost your voice? No I haven’t lost mine recently, but I did get thinking about it today. I at least I had a whisper, and if need be, I could write out what I am trying to communicate. Not everyone has that option.

Can you imagine being a child that cannot tell you if they, have a tummy ache, or a headache, are mad or sad, or all over unhappy? How would you communicate your pain or displeasure? The same way many non-verbal children do, by crying. And then the guessing game begins. Are they bleeding? Do they appear to be hurt? What just happened that might be causing this? There are all kinds of questions and theories that go on trying to figure out why a child is crying. And, they can’t tell us what the matter is. That is extremely frustrating for everyone.

The diagnosis of autism continues to rise. The 2020 statistic, for the US is now 1 in 36. Chances are pretty good that you know someone on the autism spectrum. April 2nd is Autism Awareness Day. There will be all kinds of events going on to help raise awareness about autism. Perhaps you might consider attending an event and learning more about autism. It never hurts to learn something new, and it might increase your understanding of why some children seem to cry for no reason.

Be aware. Be informed. See things differently. Enjoy the gift of a child.

*Pam Horton is the author of “Autism: Expressions of a non-verbal child” and the companion book “Autism: Rory’s Story, Having an autistic brother” written by our, then six year old, granddaughter.

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