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Ask Sarah: Can you help me better understand my non-verbal daughter?

Hello Sarah,
I have a 2 1/2 year old daughter with autism who is non-verbal so far. I have some questions that might help me understand her better. How does it feel when you try to put words together but it’s not happening? As a child, did it make you sad or frustrated not to be able to speak? Do you miss being able to talk? Did you feel untolerated around other kids?

Answer from Sarah:
It feels pleasing to know your family estimates you are smart even though [with autism], our bodies will not always work with our brains. If your family can find you inside a body that will not listen to you, it is a blessing. Then peace comes and loneliness slips away.

Please treat your little girl as though she understands. I felt lonely and not happy when people acted like I was a shell with no inhabitant. Tell her you can see her inside a body that betrays her. She needs her Dad to know she is a real child with a whole spirit and mind. Ask her to be patient until there is a way for her to speak, even if it is not with a sounding voice.

I asked God to help me because only He knew my heart. Lots lonely and in pain about no sounding voice. Other kids ignored me. I was not a real person to them. I was broken. Yes, it made me angry and afraid. I would have done anything to get a voice that worked. But I was stuck being a silent soul.

Tried, but could not control my speech. I could repeat some words, but could not control what I said or when. People thought I was dumb. I was smart.

My own Dad knew I was a thinker. Loved him. You can ask for your daughter to always remember you are knowing she is smart. She will cling to your ability to find her, and it will help her. Tell her over and over. Don’t forget to assure her. She is needing your faith in her.

2 Responses to Ask Sarah: Can you help me better understand my non-verbal daughter?

  1. Leah Seim November 29, 2017 at 7:46 am #

    My son was almost completely non-speaking until he was three. But, he could sing his ABC’s and sometimes snippets of songs to express himself. Plus, he always listened hard! I started asking questions/answering them for him over and over (What’s this, Mom/this is…) and I would identify his feelings out loud. (I see you are feeling sad about…) I even showed him how to play making noise that little boys typically do. And, yes, I tapped his shoulder, to reinforce good places for touch. He was big on touch anyway! If he needed to be still, like in church, I picked him up and held him tight… oh boy, up until he was 8? He was such a cute, little squirt that it wasn’t hard. He’s 18 now, and taller than I am. And, my son is going to be OK. He has a few friends and struggles, but should graduate this spring. He has a touch of Autism/ADHD, which gives him a quirky personality, like his mother.

  2. Taysia Malone November 5, 2022 at 10:39 am #

    Beautiful Sarah – It is wonderful to hear a voice from the silence. You are a tribute to those caught in this in-between state of awareness and tactile response. May you continue your studies and outreach. I believe in your message, more people need to be aware & understand. Blessings to you.

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