learning to navigate the world, j-bear style

To be or not to be (verbal)…

Today after an outting, I was left thinking on something I have considered often before.

My son is considered non-verbal. He has some words, and he’s growing in his use of them, but they are sporadic and a lot of his language is echolalic meaning he echoes without much meaning if any at all. He is only a nearly three year old guy though, so people often write him off as being a shy child. It’s not a big deal in public… yet. That’s another tale for another day.

Non-verbal does not mean he is not expressive, which is what led me to writing here today. The range of emotions that plays across my child’s face in the course of a day can overwhelm, astound and amaze me all in turn. He will never successfully play poker, for one thing. He has a face like glass, every thought laid out plain as day before the eyes of those lucky enough to watch. Joy, sorrow, fear, frustration, anger, pain, mishief… His sweet face is so dynamic that I can find myself forgetting we’ve managed to have a ‘conversation’ without a word, or that he’s entertained our whole table (and then some) at a meal without ever uttering a syllable.

It’s a definite art. A smile here, a side of the eye glance there, a furrow of a brow or a wrinkle of the nose… This child starts games with familiar adults without saying a thing. He simply shows them what he means and what he wants with simple, clear determination.

I am a biased spectator though. Every day, I am my son’s translator, his advocate, his voice, his comfort person, his waitress, his short order cook, his maid… his mom. I read him like a book as we’ve been at each other’s sides near every hour of ever day of his short life. I am not always right, as reading another person is a wildly imperfect art, but I have confidence that most of the time I do get it right.

Unless he is sick. When he’s sick I curse his inability to articulate needs and problems with such a violence it’s indecent.

I guess the point of this is that I am coming to appreciate how he communicates now, knowing it will change as he learns and grows. I pray of course that he will grow more verbal over time but I am aware that might not be the case for him and am leaving myself wide open to whatever method of communication comes to be for us. If smoke signals and Morse code are all that might ever work for us, I’ll stock up on lighters, tinder and items that are easy to tap together ASAP for it will just be nice to have a conversation with my boy.

He is a good boy, a loving boy, a funny boy, a gentle boy, a rowdy boy but right now he is a quiet boy too, and that’s okay. He’s the only J-bear I know and I love him for who and what he is, no more and no less.


  1. Another Piece of Cake

    This is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. I believe that you’re quite the warrior for starting this blog – while I’m sure there are challenges every day, this little guy sounds just like other kids (and awesomely expressive like my little one! And it’s only the emotions that count anyway!) Thank you for this (and PS, I saw your post on the Discovery Museum. I grew up around there and loved it – glad to see they’re hosting an event like that.)

    • nicole

      Thank you so much for your reply! He has his days (as they all do, especially at this age) but he sure makes his own mark wherever he goes. The Discovery Museums are awesome! They do programs for children with low hearing and I believe maybe even some for children with low vision too. I love their way of reaching out to these families and inviting them in… We have had a lot of fun over there.

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