I love you, too

At 2 years of age, my daughter had no words. This is what led us to ultimately receive a referral from our pediatrician to find out why.  And this was the beginning of our journey into autism. We began seeing a speech pathologist and I remember crying almost every session because it was so challenging.  We had a wonderful therapist who told me to call Jennifer about RDI. I cried through leaving my message on the answering machine, telling them I would do anything I needed to in order to help my child.  “Please help. I don’t know what to do.” It was a deep dark place, but I trusted the recommendation of my therapist and began RDI. Initially there was a lot of learning, and what I found interesting was that a lot of what we were being told was contradictory to what we were being told in traditional speech.  It got to a point that I felt strongly enough about what we were learning in RDI that I felt our daughter’s communication needs weren’t being met through traditional speech. The pace was fast, the sessions were overwhelming, the environment was overstimulating. We shifted to a speech therapist with RDI training and a philosophy that involved slowing down and focusing on communication, not just language.  

We had been told to talk, talk, talk.  Expose, expose, expose. Narrate your actions.  But this felt hollow; there was no richness to it, no purpose.  And I knew that our little girl was not processing it. As she did develop some language, she simply parroted everything right back to us with no meaning or intention behind it.

I remember tucking (S) in and telling her “Mommy loves you.”  I would put my arms around her and give her hugs. I would get no response, no hug in return.  And then one night, I tucked her in said again, “Good night, Mommy loves you.” And she said, “Good night, Mommy loves you.”  At first I was so excited that she had actually said something. But then I was devastated. I realized that she was saying words, but they weren’t her words.  They had no meaning, just repeating. Honestly this phase of just hearing her mindlessly repeat our words was more difficult than when she had no language at all.  It spotlighted how atypical and void of meaning her communication was. And then, a night came when I tucked her in, echoed my refrain, and (S) said, “I love you, too.”  She looked at me, connected with me, and I felt it. There is so much of an emphasis on getting them to talk and getting them to have language/words. But what it the point if there is no richness?  If it’s not “them”? If they’re going through the motions of talking without really using their minds and their emotions? That was a turning point for us. When I heard these words from her lips, I felt like I had won the lotto. And I cried again. A happy cry this time.

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