‘If something happens, how will he tell me?’ He shouldn’t be ignored. It feels like I’ve failed him.’: Mom of nonverbal, autistic son says ‘it is our job to listen’

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Words are things we take for granted.

Speech is something we take for granted.

Having a voice is something we take for granted.

Being able to tell someone what is upsetting you, what you don’t like, or what you love, is something we take for granted.

Verbal communication is something we take for granted.

What happens when the day comes that someone says straight out, as clear as day, ‘Your child will probably never speak properly.’

Courtesy of Nicole Duggan

No one can prepare you for that kick in the stomach. No one can prepare you for the emotions that take over. We always have that bit of hope in the back of our minds — the hope our kids will speak. As a parent, we can never give up, because it feels like we have failed them. So, when someone lays it out in black and white, it hits you hard. Harder than you could imagine.

As a parent, you learn to understand your child’s needs and wants. You understand what each sound means, what each hand signal translates to. You know them inside out. As a parent, you make sure there is two way communication. We know and understand our kids better than anyone else.

When the day comes you have to take a step back and realize, to others, your child’s speech is unintelligible, it hurts.

It hurts because your worries take over.

How will they ever be independent?

Will friends ever take the time to understand them?

Will they ever have a job? Or just something as silly as a chat on the phone?

If something happens to them, how will they tell me?

Will people make fun of them? Mock them for the thing which is out of their control?

These worries break your heart, and they haven’t even happened yet.

Imagine knowing what you want to say, but not being able to get the words out.

Imagine not being able to answer questions, even though you know the answer. You know what you want to say, but the words just don’t reach your mouth. Imagine people doubting your intelligence, because you simply do not have a voice like others do.

As a mom, you cannot wait for your little baby to speak. You can’t wait for them to say ‘mama.’ You can’t wait to have conversations with them about their favorite TV show, their favorite food, and about their little friends. You dream of the conversations about how their school day went, or about the girl they have a crush on. You wait for them to argue with you, to be cheeky, to be funny. You wait for them to sing out loud in the shower, and to be the lead in the school concert.

Courtesy of Nicole Duggan

When the words ‘severe speech sound disorder’ come into your life, you realize these things may never happen. That is a hard pill to swallow. Some days, you look into their eyes and know there is so much in there. So much information, so much knowledge. You know they have so much to say, even though people may think otherwise.

At 2 years old, my little boy was diagnosed with autism. At 6 years old, he was diagnosed with a severe speech sound disorder. Though his speech may be unintelligible to others, he has so much to say. He is clever. He is funny. He is cheeky. He may not be able to speak like you or I, but he is just like us. He cries when he is sad. He laughs when he is happy. He snores when he is asleep.

Just because he cannot speak, does not mean he has nothing to say.

Just because he cannot express himself verbally, does not mean he is not intelligent.

Just because you may not be able to understand him, does not mean he should be ignored.

Because, just like every person with severe speech sound disorder, he has so much he wants to be heard.

It is OUR job to listen!

Every day, so many people take their voices for granted. They take their speech for granted.

And every day, so many families wish for a voice for their child.

It is our job to make sure they are heard.

It is our job to listen.”

Courtesy of Nicole Duggan

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Nicole Duggan, 31, of Cork, Ireland. Follow her on Facebook here and Instagram hereDo you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube  for our best videos.

Read more stories from Nicole:

‘Isn’t he too big to be in a stroller? Shouldn’t he be walking?’ I couldn’t keep my little boy safe anymore.’: Family adopts service dog for autistic son, ‘That was the day my little boy’s life changed forever’

‘They wipe away tears on the tough days, they laugh with them on the good days. They build a confidence in our children we could not do ourselves.’: Mom thanks special needs teachers for their hard work, ‘They don’t get enough credit’

‘He cannot speak. He plays differently. He may not look you in the eye. Every day, I wonder, ‘Did someone play with him in the schoolyard?’: Mom says ‘thank you’ to young boy for acknowledging autistic son

‘The text came at 12 p.m. ‘All schools will close at 2:30 p.m. for a minimum of 2 weeks.’ Autism doesn’t allow for change.’: Mom of autistic child says ‘covid-19 could change everything’

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