Anyone who knows autism up close and personal knows that most thrive on routine. Our bedtime routine morphs here and there sometimes little changes I make, sometimes ones E does, but the current one goes like this:
“Its time to give grandma hugs and kisses” (this has somehow become his signal to stop whatever he’s doing, and go find grandma, then head to the room…if grandma isn’t home time for bed/nite nite usually works too)
Once on the bed he usually covers his legs with a thick pillow, sits Indian style and then somehow jumps on the bed like this, slamming his face and upper body into the pillow as he comes down. Now any casual observer would think hes paying no attention whatsoever, but he stops for a second when its his turn in the routine. Sometimes hes calmer but not often.
We read the book of the year (I get a new one every birthday usually a fairly simple book on how much I love him no matter what, he still doesn’t tolerate more than a sentence or two on a page).
We sing a song i made up for him as a baby…he sings to me first…hes recently thought he was funny and added a word and it stuck…
“Ethan loves (stops bouncing to touch my nose then put his palm on my cheek) mommy’s nose and mommy.
Loves you mommys nose and mommy
Ethan loves mommys nose and mommy
Ethan looooooooves…..mommys nose and mommy mommy mommy” (holds his hand a bit longer on my cheek)
I reverse it to be “mommy (point at myself) loves Ethan” (with little tickles on his name in the first part followed by whole body tickle at the very end).
Sometimes he guides my hands to tell me more tickles are wanted and where.
Then hugs and kisses.
Then i ask if he wants his music (one of those projector things that puts something on the ceiling and plays music) and tell him “I love you”.
Then usually i turn out the light and he bounces some more and goes to sleep
I’ve started a little kissing game with him where i count and kiss up to 5 which he loves, and he wanted to play a bunch of rounds of last night after kiss/hug part…hey who am i to complain since he took turns too, even kissing me instead of just putting his cheek to mine like usual. That was just the first part of the magic that last night held…
At that moment he stopped and looked deep into my eyes, with a look of wonder on his little face, seeming to look into my soul to make sure it really was true…he held my gaze, searching, for quite a few moments….seeming to be frozen in time….at which point I asked “did you know that?” He smiled a big smile then bobbed his whole upper body once with a resounding “NYEAH!*” and lemme tell you, this mommy melted.
People think that non-verbal kids are unintelligent, that they don’t hear or understand, that they’re not “there”, and whatever other millions of misconceptions there are. Most of the time I have no clue what goes on in that little brain, probably a lot more than I give him credit for (and I give a LOT of credit). But let me tell you what, I get tiny glimpses of, (like last night) and nonspeaking autistic kids and adults around the world are saying…we ARE there, we DO listen and understand, no matter how our bodies and our lips betray that fact, treat us with respect, like you would any person our age, because our brain IS intact, and we ARE intelligent!
*nyeah (or some close form of it) is his go-to “word” it basically is an affirmative answer to a question. Very rarely accompanied with the upper body bob forward.