J has a whole lot of words. He learns words by the day, gaining a few here and there in this wonderful effort towards grasping the art of communication. He describes things, he makes curious questions, he even has exclamations that crack me up.

This leaves us in a strange situation.

See, I frequently have to defend the fact that when I describe him, I use the term “nonverbal”. Now, I can understand why some of the static occurs. It’s a misleading term. People confuse “nonverbal” with “mute”.  Nonverbal means “not using words and terms for speech”, which leads to quite a grey area when it comes to J. He has words. However, a lot of those words are not functional.

Conversations with J are very simple. They are not detailed, they are not nuanced. Granted, I am not expecting to discuss the finer points of Plato with my 4-year-old, but we do not get beyond the level of perhaps a 2.5 year old with his speech some days. Other days, we get fantastic statements and great phrases, but they are simple. He is very simple, and very direct, with his words. He does not understand concepts like “hungry”, “thirsty”, “wet”, “dry” but he understands “cereal”, “milk”, and “water”. It has to be concrete and visual to be quickly understood or it is lost.

This is just how it is, and you know… It’s okay. We figure it out, but it’s why he will continue to be noted as nonverbal for the sake of those just meeting him. His language skills when reaching out and interacting to the world outside his closest people is severely limited but he can, and will, try when he is ready and willing to do so.

Also, if you happen to meet him, he’s highly likely to greet you with “no”. Not “hi”. No. Or “not yet”. That’s his way of letting you know that he recognizes you’re there, but he’s not quite sorted you into his world view. He’s working on it, and when he’s ready and got things adequately settled he returns to you in his own way. He is always encouraged to say hello, to be friendly, but I will never force him into niceties he is not yet ready for. We just have to find a more constructive way for him to do this than saying “no”.

Funny, I just wrote all these words about J and his relationship with verbal communication and I have to laugh. He rarely remembers names for people, or even cares much for them, but Nonie Dog, she has a name. Always a name. I think this name will stick for whoever our dog shall be just because his little voice is so sweet and adorable when he says it, as though he is laughing as he says it. I love it.