He was diagnosed as autistic when he was three. His father rejected the diagnosis and the mother and son who received it. Pat suffered two losses that day: the support of a man she loved dearly and the hope of watching her second child become a prosperous adult. Pat talked to me about her son through a strained smile; she paused often and looked hard at me gauging my listening reactions. A courageous mother loved her son despite his pulling away from hugs and looking away from her face – often down at the floor – when she talked to him, she studied all that was written about autism.
She noted that he sat quietly when ole Negro Spirituals / Gospels were played. He tapped his drinking straws in rhythm with the beat of songs by the Mighty Clouds of Joy and the Mississippi Blind Boys.
He had to have his meals on time, 8am, 12noon and 6pm ,and he wouldn’t eat unless the table was blessed. And if I wasn’s eating with him, he would offer me the first bite from his fork .”
Pat stopped talking for a few minutes. The silence hung heavy in the room. She cleared her throat and swallowed before she spoke again.
“ He only said one word. When I asked him if he was ready to eat, or go out with me in the car or go to bed, he answered,”Ba”. I knew that it meant “yes”. And if I scolded him for getting too excited when he watched television, he would bow his head and touch the top of it and say, “Ba”– he wanted me to kiss the top of his head to let him know that I was not mad at him.”
I nodded my head, and we both sat quietly for a while. A mother and a son communicated through a single word.
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