- FYI, just because an individual is NonVerbal. It does NOT mean they are deaf & you need to raise your voice, nor does it mean they are unable to comprehend given instructions.
There was once a time in my own son’s life that he did not speak. His development was at a different pace than that of his peers and other children his age. Heck, we didn’t even know if he would ever be able to walk or talk. But we had hope that God would answer our prayers.
This was him at his second Christmas, just learning to sit up. Boxing Producer, Don King, called us that morning to wish us a Merry Christmas, because he had learned about my son’s hairdo. That was a memorable moment in time.
It was around this time that his growth and development began to show delays in his physical capabilities along with his lack of speech. So instead we began to learn sign language by watching VHS tapes that was provided by his in-home occupational therapist.
I made sure I provided him with the best possible opportunities to gain strength through his upper extremities with hopes that he would one day walk. I had him in therapy for speech, OT and PT. He began school at the age of 3 in a wheelchair. That was a scary time for me. I cried that first day of sending him to school, following the bus all the way there. He was unable to verbalize to me or others. Not able to advocate for his own needs and still in diapers. Just some simple signs, like “more”, “eat”, “thank you”, and “done”. If he were to have a bad day, how would he be able to tell me? If someone were to mistreat him how would I find out? All these terrifying thoughts ran through my head. It took time for me to stop popping up at the classroom and calling nearly everyday. He had a nurse ride the bus due to his medical history of heart arrhythmia. He also had an IEP for his special needs and accomodations for learning. He wore a helmet to protect his head because he had began having seizures, but they eventually subsided with lots of prayer.
Those were his younger days of elementary school. He got keep the same bus driver all the way through his junior year of high school. Amazingly, she became known to him like family.
I believe he was around the age of 5 when he finally began to walk independently but still with someone nearby. He transitioned from sign language and pointing, to expressing a few sounds, and with much therapy eventually he began verbalizing with words. His speech was not clear or concise at that time, but to us, we knew what he was saying (most of the time). He had come a mighty, mighty long way from where his life began and he would continue to reach milestones as time went on.
His name is Erik. And he’s my son whom I love dearly. He loves Jesus and he acknowledges that is his Savior, literally and spiritually.
My son is different just like anyone else. Unique in his own way, and enjoys his life to the fullest. He isn’t ashamed to be who he is. And he does NOT see himself the ways others do, as having “something wrong”.
He is 17 and he still enjoys watching PBS kids, Disney pixar films, and the wiggles, Barney and child rated shows. He is all about daily routines, and enjoys eating the same foods. He is a creature of repetitive habits and he loves socializing with others.
It’s highly likely he will still be watching Monsters Inc, Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and other movies even into his adulthood. He likes to rock back and forth while sitting. And he absolutely loves to praise and worship the Lord.
He enjoys attending church and praying on the microphone. Erik is one-of-a-kind, hard-to-find, unique as a jewel.
He is in his senior year now, and was nominated as “Lord of the day” for his Homecoming Royalty. Although he is viewed and often labeled as having “special needs” he is very popular and well-known in our community. Let’s just say he is very confident and makes his presence known wherever we go.
We do our best to keep him active and he enjoys bowling, footgolf, dancing. He also participates in basketball and cooking classes. He has won bronze, gold medals for his regionals competition for Special Olympics in bowling and basketball.
Erik and Regan at Regionals.
Thank you for taking the ride along my parenting journey once again. And for allowing me to be his voice. My life wouldn’t be the same if he wasn’t who he is today. And I could care less about the naysayers.
Because I can’t “change the people” around me so I just “change the people around me.” -Erika
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