Jacob’s speech is shifting again, he’s moving ahead, coming along… swimmingly. The pace is fairly glacial, and so like the encroaching ice it moves so slowly you don’t notice it has crossed the line, carried on to elsewhere until, suddenly seeming, it is there!
Jake used to ask everyone questions that he already knew the answers to: "Is that a baby?" while staring at a baby. Contrary to the standard “book” on autistic people, Jake actually found it easier to ask a (straightforward, factual) question than to make a declarative statement.
Well, that seems to be shifting now, and Jake is just declaring away to any and all around him. Thankfully most of the people he talks to are willing to play along, not delve too deep into why a big kid is sounding so much like a little kid.
There is no meanness. Yet. But, then again, he hasn't tried talking to too many teenagers. Yet.
Jake to a man walking a dog the other day on the street: “Excuse me, Man? You’re walking your dog!” Luckily the man smiled quizzically then kindly, and agreed that yes indeed, he WAS walking his dog.
When we took a train ride recently, on the return trip home the train was very crowded and it took a long time for the conductor to make her way through the car. Jake was leaning out into the aisle watching her, clearly impatient to talk to her.
He started to shout out to her, but I made him wait until she was close. When she was two rows away from us, he just couldn't contain himself any longer...
Jacob: "Mrs. Conductor!"
(I couldn't wait to hear what in the world he was dying to say to her; really had no clue.)
Jacob: "I have a ticket!"
Conductor: "And I'm going to come punch the heck out of your ticket in just one moment. Wait and I'll be right there."
When she comes to take his ticket, Jake is beaming, then makes a request: "Make a happy face, please." (The conductor on the outgoing train had done that, pleasing Jake no end.)
And then? Jake kicks it up a notch: "With teeth, a happy face with pointy teeth!" (I'm thinking: no more vampire movies for you, my son.)
The conductor, bless her soul, is game: "Well, I'll try..."
And she did. And Jake was pleased. It doesn't look much like a vampire happy face, but she get's an A for effort and kindness, for sure.
The other day I was listening to Jacob tell me something when it hit me like a ton of bricks: He was using complete sentences without prompting.
A year ago, while he was certainly capable of using complete sentences, we mostly got single words and short phrases (if it wasn't a completely scripted phrase) unless we pushed for more. And so we had to push, push, push him. And deny him, pretend to not understand. If he could get what he wanted with two or three words, that's all we'd get.
Instead of "I want to want to wear the red shirt today, Mom, can I have it please?" (now) he would say "Red one." We had to pull expansiveness out of him, and it was exhausting.
So when did that change? I couldn't tell you. When did this full-sentence-talking-boy emerge? Dunno.
That night I asked my husband: "Have you noticed Jake almost always talks in full sentences these days?" And he had to stop and think about it, and then agreed with me that yes, he does, and no, he too has no idea exactly when that shifted.
And that's the maddening thing. There is no exactly. It's minutely incremental, like how sand dunes "walk" across a desert, a few inches a day. And you never notice the day-to-day movement until suddenly it's clear the landscape has altered irrevocably.
He is also asserting himself in new and interesting ways...
When Ethan grabs the TV clicker as he sits down in the living room where Jake is in the middle of watching a show, Jake will now pipe up with: "Ethan, don't change the channel... I'm watching something!"
When I spoke to him the other day and addressed him, as I often do, as "sweetheart" I got this response: “Don’t call me sweetheart. My name is Jacob.” (This is probably an adaptation of a script from a TV show, book or movie that I just don't recognize, but it's so damn appropriate that I'm going to count it as amazing anyway.)
I don't know where all this is going, but I know it's a long way from where we've been. And for this next year, I'm vowing to pay more attention on the way,
But I'll probably still be taken by surprise by Jake's changes. He's a sneaky one, that boy, growing and growing up, changing and evolving while I'm distracted and focused elsewhere for a moment.
I look at him and he's standing in place, admiring the flowers. I turn around and there he is, a whole square further down the path, smiling and waving.
And as long as he's forging ahead, I wouldn't have it any other way. Keep going Jake, keep going... leave me in the dust, please.
Things I Can't Say
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