Nonverbal is a really weird term the way that it's used in our society. It can mean a person who doesn't use verbal speech at all ever but understand everything you say, or it can mean a person who can neither produce nor understand spoken word, or it can mean a person who can only say a few words, or maybe their few words don't sound exactly right, or it can mean a person who can't verbally speak but speaks fluent American Sign Language. So it's a pretty stupid term to begin with. That's a lot of different meanings for one word.
Technically, we have two "nonverbal" children.
I feel like I get asked a lot of questions about that experience. Not in a bad way honestly but just in like a curious what is that like way from family or friends. And people who don't know Julian or baby bro very well really don't seem to get what it's like at all. Their perception seems to be that we aren't able to communicate with them at all, that we don't have conversations, and I could see why someone who doesn't know the boys, or who doesn't have a neurodiverse communicator in their life, would think that. I'm not necessarily offended by the assumption.
I was just thinking about that this evening while I was hanging out with both little dudes in the living room. Julian was sitting contentedly with his back against my chest as I fed him dinner, smiling and stimming by whipping his head from side to side repeatedly and waving his arms, saying Mom that food is giving me a burst of energy and I can tell that it's you when you talk in my ear and kiss my cheek and that makes me happy I'm happy to be with you.
Our baby was on his therapy swing. A song he didn't prefer right then came on and he made a discontented squeak and looked at me with a furrowed brow, then scampered across the room determinedly on his little legs, saying Mom I don't feel like this song can we please change it?
I pan through the options on Youtube until I land on Taylor Swift's Blank Space and he flaps his hands and tilts his head with a huge smile, screaming wordlessly but I hear him loud and clear That one that one PICK THAT VIDEO.
"This is a good one?"
Happy sigh, he give me the "a-ok" sign with his fingers and plops into my lap, squeezing and squiggling in with us, thumb firmly into his mouth. He takes my hand and places it on his cheek. Yep this song hits the spot let's all listen to it together.
Julian makes an anxious squeal, feeling the closeness of the smaller brother who is still learning how to keep his hands to himself, Mom he's too close and it's making me nervous.
"Let's give everybody their own space." I tell them, shifting them around so one is nestled on either side. Julian gives me a huge drooly grin and a joyful "Gaaaaaahhhh" sound, leaning into me, Thanks mom, you always know what to do. I'm happy to be safe beside you.
Until I had a neurodiverse loved one who communicated in alternative ways, I didn't understand what it was like to KNOW someone. I KNOW what my little boys are saying to me, with their bodies and their vocalizations and their signing and their expressions. Baby brother has only a few spoken words and less than twenty regular signs, and Julian has even less "conventional" communication, but I HEAR them. I always know what those two mean. Sometimes I feel like I understand them better, and am better understood by them, than the people in my life who are verbal!
Saying all that to say, don't write off the "nonverbal" kids. If you choose to make one of them YOUR kid, I promise that if you let them, they will communicate with you soul to soul. Your conversations with them will happen on a deeper level than you've ever experienced just "chatting" with someone.
Anyway, to my two youngest boys: I know it's unlikely that either of you will ever read this (although the jury's still out on baby bro, time will tell) but you don't need to read it to know everything that I've said here. I know ya'll already know that you and I, we just GET each other.
The nonverbal label aint got nothing on you two.
Love you both. I know you know.