“The amazing thing about Dov is that he didn’t begin to communicate until he was nine years old, and it was only then that we discovered a boy we had not known before. A smart, caring, wonderful boy who, when we asked him what he had been doing all those years, simply spelled out: “listening”.”
-Portia Iverson, Strange Son
Hope is always talking.
Even though Rhema may be sitting on the other side of the room, Hope pretends they’re at a tea party and runs over and holds out a cup to her sister.
“Rhema, here’s your tea. Here you go.”
But Rhema doesn’t look at her. She does not take the cup.
When Rhema comes home from school, Hope cries out,
“Hi Rhema! Hi Rhema!!!”
But Rhema does not respond, does not even look in her direction.
When we go outside, Rhema rushes out in front of us.
“Rhema, wait for me!” Hope calls cheerfully.
But Rhema never turns around. She does not wait.
When Hope is out in front, she stops and turns. She holds out her hand.
“C’mon, Rhema. C’mon.”
But Rhema does not come.
We had just finished bath time.
“Let’s go, girls,” I said. “It’s time for dinner.”
Hope was at my side, ready to go downstairs.
“Rhema. Come. It’s time for dinner,” I repeated.
But she was busy humming to herself and playing with the frayed edge of a towel.
Hope looked up at me.
“She doesn’t hear us, Mommy. She doesn’t hear us.”
The tone in her 2 year-old voice startled me. Resignation, a hint of exasperation, and… sadness. How long had she been thinking about this?
I remember. I remember thinking that too, once. Years ago, before Rhema was diagnosed. Is this a hearing loss we’re dealing with? I had wondered as we drove to an audiologist’s office for a hearing test. At least… at least, that would make sense…
But thankfully, Rhema’s hearing is fine. (For one thing, I know. She hears ‘I love you’ loud and clear!)
I stooped down and looked into Hope’s eyes. I held her face in my hands.
“She hears us, baby. So don’t you ever stop talking to her, o.k.??? Because she hears you. And one day, she’ll show you that she’s been listening all along.”
I’d love your suggestions on how and when to talk to a younger sibling about autism.