Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Questioning Boy

Ben is asking questions!

"What does a squirrel say?"

"What are you going to do after I go to sleep?  Are you going to play?"

"What song is that?"

"Where are we going?"

"What is a solar system?"

"What are we going to do today?"

"Where is Daddy?"

"What are you cooking for me?"

"What is that?"  (Which started out as, "What that is?" and was so cute I could hardly stand it.)

And he always asks these questions (and many more) with this look on his face that is a mixture of curiosity and amusement, like "A ha!  I now have a way of obtaining information from you!  Over and over again!"

Why is this significant, since 'all' kids ask questions? 

Because I was afraid he wouldn't.  Ever.  I have mentioned before that Ben didn't talk until he was 3&1/2 and that, when he began talking, there was an explosion of words and sentences.  We went from no verbal communication to a ton of it in just a month.  But there were no questions.  There were lots of words and sentences, but even when he wanted something he would say, "I need juice," for example.  We modeled questions and tried to prompt him to say, "May I please have some juice?" and sometimes he would phrase it that way to ensure he got what he wanted, but he did not form questions on his own until now, almost 2 years later.

I was so thrilled he was talking that I didn't give this issue much thought until his diagnosis last summer, but when I began to read up on the subject I discovered that many children on the spectrum never ask questions.  Often, they are so locked in their own world that they don't ever realize or become aware that they can ask questions to get information, and sometimes they aren't even aware of and connected to others enough to want information from them.  This is when I began to worry about Ben's lack of questioning.  I longed to hear the endless string of "Why?" questions that cause some parents to complain.  I longed for my child to be curious enough to reach out for answers, and I was afraid he would not be.  Ben is fairly high-functioning, but sometimes the Autism slaps me in the face.  Sometimes, it's visible and undeniable.  He didn't ask questions when other kids his age were full of them, and that was clear and alarming.

This question-asking, as simple as it may seem, gives me a huge amount of hope that he will NOT be limited by this syndrome.  It gives me hope that he is connected to other people and that he is present and aware here in the world with the rest of us.  He is reaching out to others for information that he wants, and he makes eye contact when he does it.  He now has the ability to reach into the world and connect to it and to everyone else, and that reassures me so much there aren't words to describe it or measure it.  A simple question from him gives me hope that he will be able to complete his education and go to college and have a career he loves and sustain relationships with others.  It gives me hope that this is the tip of the iceberg and that his communication skills will continue to flourish.

He is not yet asking all of those "Why?" questions, but that may very well be next.  I welcome them and look forward to answering every single one without complaint.