Love Doesn’t Need Words

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My son and I have this thing where we say “I love you” in sign language, and then flip it around to make the Spider-Man “thwip” hand. Sometimes he’ll kiss his palm and shoot it to me like he’s shooting a web. I’m pretty sure that’s what he’s visualizing.

My dad always did, and still does, the I love you sign, so it was just kind of a natural thing to do with my son. The Spider-Man element has been something that was added that makes my son and I smile every time. Spidey is life at my house.

I’ve been thinking about that sign lately, and I’m reminded of how many moms will be celebrated on Mother’s Day, but maybe have never heard their child say the words “I love you.” My son is autistic. He is verbal, but hearing him say that he loves me is something I can never take for granted because I know so many who are walking a very different path.

Many children on the Autism Spectrum are non-verbal. Some communicate through sign, or speaking device. But some do not. Some communicate physically. Sometimes communication with affection and sometimes with aggression. Aggression is something we have become familiar with. It started when my son was around three years old. While my son was somewhat verbal, he was echolalic, and couldn’t communicate most needs. He could repeat things back and memorize things and figure out how to apply them. I remember telling therapists that I just wanted to know his own thoughts.

I can remember an instance (pre-therapy) where he said to a teacher “wipe your nose?” She then would say “No, I don’t need to wipe my nose.” This went on several times before snot started running down his nose and she realized he was asking her what he needed to be asked. “Do you need to wipe your nose?” In a simple relieved way he just said, “Yes.”

While this is a sweeter story of communication delays, it can be equally met with aggressive behaviors. When you become a mom, you know you’ll do anything for your child. But what you don’t think about is becoming a punching bag. You don’t think about your child hitting, kicking, or even choking you. I certainly didn’t. Who would? “Not my kid. Not ever.” Insert eye roll emoji. But the reality many parents of children who are autistic deal with this. Some way worse than others. You become a shield for others and a shield for your child. 

It’s really hard in these times to think of your child loving you. I’ve told my husband a time or two on really hard days, “I think he hates me.” But that’s not reality. That episode isn’t an indication of my child’s love for me or lack thereof. It’s solely a behavior triggered by something, and they lose control. They are gone and you have to wait until they come back to you. And when they do, you breathe a sigh of relief and remember the truth.

The truth is that love doesn’t need words. It can be said through device, through sign, through gestures, or a simple hug. If you are walking through life with a non-verbal or delayed communicator, if you are walking through life with an aggressive child, don’t let those things have the final say. Life may not look how you thought it would, but love is there. It’s woven into everything you do for your child. And it’s woven into your child towards you. It may show up in unconventional ways. It may show up after a terrible episode, but if you keep your eyes open and your heart lifted, you’ll see it. And I really hope you let it sink in.

You may be bruised, whether that’s emotionally, mentally, or physically, but God handpicked your child for you and you for them. No mistakes were made.

If this isn’t you, but you’re still reading, remember the mamas walking a hard road; going through life with words she hasn’t heard but longs to hear. Or just simply trying to get through the day. If you know of a mama like this, go out of your way to tell her what an amazing job she’s doing. Tell her she’s loved not only by her family and friends but by a God who never makes mistakes and can shoulder the loads we are carrying. Chocolate never hurt either. And above all, take nothing for granted. Not one single thing.

How does your child communicate their love for you?

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Kelly moved from Indiana to Columbia six years ago for her husband’s job. He works for the Fireflies...let’s glow! They have one son, Callan, who is almost five, and one furbaby, Eddie, who is six. Their son Cal was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder a little over a year ago. For the past couple of years, their life has been consumed with all things therapy related. Columbia and the surrounding area (Kelly lives in Chapin) has truly been a wonderful place to call home. They’ve met the most amazing people, have attended a wonderful church, and have found a deep love for this special place for reasons she never would have guessed!

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