By Christine Denise
Autism Mom and Contributing Writer for As You Are, a virtual clinic dramatically increasing access to early autism diagnostic services through the use of exclusively telehealth appointments
I woke up this morning without a voice.
It was my turn for a nasty cold that had been plaguing my son who has autism, and my neurotypical children.
No matter how hard I tried to talk, no one could understand me.
The woman at a fast food drive thru asked me if I could write out my order on a piece of paper for her and bring it to the window because she simply could not understand what I was trying to shout into the order speaker.
When we finally saw each other at the order window, she legitimately looked like she felt sorry for me. She took the piece of paper I handed her, nodded and smiled at me and told me she would take care of me.
Other people were not so flexible.
At the grocery store, the cashier was visibly annoyed when I asked her for paper bags instead of plastic bags and she couldn’t understand me.
She kept trying to lean in closer and said, “What? What? What did you say?”
People started looking over.
I felt stared at and awkward.
I motioned that I had lost my voice.
She handed me a piece of paper to write on.
My husband asked me to text him whatever I wanted to say to him.
My neurotypical kids had a legit reason to ignore me and honestly say they didn’t hear me. I had to physically touch them to get their attention. And, even when I did, they still had a very hard time understanding what I was trying to say, asking me to write it out to them or text them, too.
I looked at my son who has autism and realized what a profound experience this was becoming for me to better understand him and his struggles.
For me, though, I knew how to write when someone asked me to write.
I knew how to text.
I knew how to get the attention of my other children without feeling like I had to pinch them or pull at their clothing.
My son who has autism only knows that he has something to say, and he knows he can’t get the words out or how to get someone’s attention without physically touching them – sometimes not pleasantly.
It also made me admire his strength even more.
I know how unbelievably frustrated I felt being unable to communicate with everyone around me.
Even answering the phone was out of the question for me.
I couldn’t help but think of how my son does this every day of his life, and still manages to smile brighter than anyone I’ve ever seen.
He still flaps his hands in sheer joy and excitement at the simplest things.
He truly is the happiest person I know almost all the time, despite his frustrations over communication difficulties.
All I felt like doing was going to bed and calling it a day. I certainly didn’t feel like socializing with my family or anyone. I didn’t want to be around anyone the more the day went on.
And there were so many times I forgot that I couldn’t speak and tried to, only to be reminded that the words wouldn’t come out.
So I stopped trying.
I gave up.
And told my husband I had to be alone.
My son has never stopped trying.
He’s nearly 10 years old, and still tries to mimic our words.
He is still trying to use his communication device, even though the progression has been extremely slow over four years.
And he still communicates in the only ways he knows how.
Even though he hasn’t yet found his voice, he doesn’t act like I did when I lost mine.
He doesn’t give up.
Do you have questions about your child’s development? The team at As You Are provides diagnostic evaluations for kids 16 months to 10 years old via telehealth appointments.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. This is a sponsored blog post, but all opinions are my own.