Some days, it’s all worth it, and I love my job. Today is one of those days.
About two weeks ago, we started a new communication system with one of my little kiddos with autism, who is nonverbal. I love this kid. I think he’s funny and cute, and he’s got great potential. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, in addition to picture exchange, we began a system where we immerse him in using pictures to communicate, meaning that, when I work with him, I use pictures too. I use them to comment, to request, to clarify what he wants. I use them for everything. I thought it would be a pain, but it’s actually been really… fun.
The big breakthrough was when he began using the pictures to request snacks and comment. Today, I was requesting that he throw the ball by pointing to “My turn” and then the two pictures “throw” and “ball.” I require nothing of him. But he loved it, and he was pointing to the pictures too, in order to request that I throw the ball back to him. I thought the session was going fantastically. He had even made a couple of comments, like “I don’t like that.” It was awesome. I stayed way longer than the normal amount of time I give him.
I was bouncing the ball and waiting for him to tell me he wanted a turn. When he did, I started pointing to the numbers, and I said, “One… Two…” as we had been doing. But before I got to three, I got distracted. In that space–way longer than the five seconds I’d been waiting–I heard a tiny voice say, “Three.”
I’ve been working with this boy since August. I’ve only heard him cry, and rarely even that. He’s so silent, this boy, walking around the room like a ghost. He uses some signs, and he’s gotten pretty good at pictures, but I’ve never heard him babble or vocalize in any way. I’ve never really heard his voice.
I heard you today, little man.
When I looked at him, thinking someone else must have come up behind him, he was smiling at me–at me–with a look that said, “Yeah, lady, it’s been there all along. All you had to do was wait for it.” And then he kissed me on the cheek.
It still gives me chills.
I waited, and I heard him. I was patient, and I believed, and he spoke.
Will the same thing happen tomorrow? I don’t know. Maybe it will be awhile before I hear his voice again. Maybe he’ll start talking all the time.
Until then, I will keep trying, and I will be patient. I will wait.
And I will hear his voice again. I know I will.