How to find your autistic child’s voice

Tonight, I would like to reach out again to the non-autistic parents of children on the autism spectrum.  This time, I’d like to tackle a concept that is, ironically, common and yet, lonely: finding your autistic child’s voice.

It’s not impossible.  That is to say: it’s possible.

It’s even likely.

I’ll explain…

Your child may not communicate with you in the usual way.  But they’re probably saying something nonetheless.

You may need your eyes.

Look closely.  The hand-flittering, the finger orchestra, the facial expression…

…may be telling you more than might be visible at first glance.

If you find it hard to understand, take a second glance.  Or maybe a third.  Steal those glances, here and there, until the light bulb illuminates.  It will; give it time.  Time doesn’t operate in the usual way for those on the spectrum.  Time, for us, has wrinkles in it.  It moves simultaneously like syrup and lightning.  It’s not bad.  It’s not wrong.  It’s just different. 

It just Is.

Look at their eyes.  You may have to do it sideways.  The limbic system is extra-active.  They may appear to be looking through you.  But they see you.  You register.  You matter.  They’re telling you this–just in a different way.

They’re not locked up or locked in.  They weren’t stolen, I promise.  They need you.  Not to save them, but to nurture them.  To gently nudge them to bloom in their own way.  They’ll bloom.  They just need your steadfastness.  They need your grounding, your mindfulness, your solidity.  Most of all, they need your patience.   They’re OK being alone.  They’re OK playing solitary.  They’re OK.  They’re not bad.  They’re not wrong.  They’re just different.

They just Are, and they need room to simply Be.

Hope is not lost, dear parent.  Hope is only beginning.  Hope may have yet to be found.  Hope may appear to be lurking in the shadows, locked inside an indivisible raindrop, but it’s not.  It’s there.  It’s already happening; it just looks different.  But appearances are cheap anyway; they’re only surface-deep.  What really matters is what’s inside.  That’s not just a cliche here; in this case, it’s the truth.  It’s your mantra.  Grab onto it.  Hang onto it.  Repeat after me…

“What really matters is what’s inside.”

“What really matters is what’s inside.”

“What really matters is what’s inside.”

Your child is complete and whole, just the way they are.  They simply operate according to a different code, one that your receiver may not readily understand.  One that may be tough to decipher.  It needs a translator.  Your child may be too young to identify and effectively express themselves yet; so, you would need to be the translator.

They need only your love.  But love is not as simple as it sounds.  Love is a package deal.  Love includes acceptance.  Love includes understanding.  Love includes accommodation.  Love includes encouragement.  They need their space.  They need room to grow.  They need permission to become their own person.

To find your child’s voice, you need only let them find theirs.

They’ll find theirs on their own.  They need your gentle guidance.  They need your encouragement.  They need your reach.  Reach out to them.  Let them introduce themselves.  They’ll do it in their own way, on their own timeline.  Remember that the Autistic Time Zone might be wrinkled.

Listen, but not with your ears.  Listen with a parent’s intuition.  You have it; it’s there.  Listen to what they’re saying when they draw pictures.  When they fingerpaint.  When they sculpt with clay.  Or Play-Doh.  Or when they point.  Or when they stare.  Or when they rock.  Or when they flap.  Or when they learn to write.  Or if they start to compose music.  Or when they turn up the radio, wanting you to hear a song.  When they do these things, they’re talking to you.  There are often no words involved.  To get the message, just feel.  This gives them (the rest of) their voice.

And when you do receive the message they’re trying to send, and they begin to receive the messages that you’re sending, it’s a beautiful dance.  The qualities of complexity, efficiency, and simplicity occur simultaneously.  A message seemingly so simple can carry a wide and complex signal that embodies thought, ideas, and emotions all at once.  Therein lies its efficiency.  It’s unlike any other communication between “regular” human beings.  It can feel like magic.  You might even begin to wish the entire world was autistic.  If you’re not able to wrap your mind around that last statement, and your body and mind recoil instead, there’s no shame in that.  Give it time; it may grow on you.

Listen to the environment around them.  For this one, you will need your ears.  Listen for the subtleties: the faucet dripping, the fluorescent lights whining, the power lines buzzing, the furnace humming, the air conditioner rattling outside.  The TV or stereo speakers hissing.  Watch them respond to these elements.

Now watch for those fluorescent lights; are they flickering?  Look again; wave your hand between yourself and the light; do your fingers reveal a strobe effect?  That might be immensely irritating or overwhelming.  Or maybe it’s the wrong color?  Watch their response to these and other elements, too.

Now close your eyes and think back: What do they shy away from?  When do they misbehave?  When do they act out?  When do they have a meltdown?  What seemingly tiny factors may have contributed?  When they do this, they’re talking to you.  This, too, is not bad.  It’s not wrong.  It’s just different.

It just Is.

To find your autistic child’s voice, you only need to look, listen, and feel.  You’ll need to watch, listen, and feel in ways that may seem unusual to you.  Look, listen, and feel, with wider eyes and ears.  Pay attention to the subtleties, the background, the elements usually tuned out.

Your child’s voice comes from within themselves; they’ll show you.  You’ll hear it if you’re aware.  Awareness is both an art and a learned skill, developed through insight and experience; please don’t feel bad if you don’t acquire it instantly.

The other part of your child’s voice comes from you; by understanding, on any level, you give it to them.

They find their voice on their own; it may take on a different form than you might expect.  That’s OK.  You give them the rest of that voice, by hearing them.  You may or may not need your ears, your eyes, or even your facial expression.

You may only need your heart. 🙂

Advertisements

11 Comments

    1. Awesome!! I’m so elated to hear that 🙂 Yep, my mom did that with me, too. It meant the world to me then, and it does now, too–even more so as time has gone on ❤

      Like

  1. Such great words, my friend. I feel blessed, in a sense, that, even before I knew why it came so natural, I have had a lot of perception with my kiddos. Not that I have never had my times of worry or feeling a bit baffled, of course, particularly at the beginning of our journey. At any rate, embracing our children for who they are is so vital.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! Your lovely words mean a whole lot to me, especially given how amazing a mom you are. Your children are just so very lucky to have you as their mother! Your comment restored a whole chunk of my faith in humanity; with people like you in this world, the human race just might have a lot more hope after all 😘❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  2. in the long run, this might help: https://anonymouslyautistic.net/2017/02/01/taking-the-easy-route-a-poem-about-invisible-illness/comment-page-1/#comment-5535

    as i said the other day, i only participate with this community through comments, not my blog. perhaps someday that would change, but thats a very long-view someday– it would basically be fully outing myself, as fig is something i do “in real life.”

    if youre on wordpress, its entirely possible to find me in this community, but only if you go to the comments sections of relevant posts. (not directly through my blog.)

    im a very technical person, to say the least– i can tell you how weakly “closeted” this is, but its where i draw the line for now (and probably quite some time to come.) can google tell? well, they can probably do sentiment analysis, target stores can figure out that youre pregnant based on buying certain vitamins with your credit card, and facebook sometimes outs kids as gay to their families through targeted ads. so yes– google surely knows. 🙂

    but i still draw the line here– whats the point of saying that? actually, its sort of an aside. or a preface. i think youll love the link more than anything else ive written, to be honest. its an example of how i talk when ive got a truly ambitious idea. check it out at your leisure, obviously– but i dont think youll want to miss it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Omg what brilliant comments!! I read them both and holy hell, do you flesh out your thoughts nicely. I can’t wait for you to set up an autism-related blog, if you feel like doing so at some point! “We’re still looking for a leader” – so true! And your perspective about the DSM is totally cool 😊😊.

      Thank you very much for pointing me to that link!! ❤️❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. i wanted you to know about it, in case it turns into a movement. and also in case you want to turn it into a movement. and also in case you know someone who wants to turn it into a movement. (and also in case you meet someone who wants to turn it into a movement.) hmm, ive got to figure out the theme running through this comment… 🙂 ❤

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s