Anyone who has been around children will attest that they possess an innate sense of humor. The same is especially true of neurodivergent kids and even those who are non-speaking.
In this short story, author Aditi shows us how speech is not a prerequisite for great comic timing and everyday humor.
A New Mother’s Dreams
Pallavi was one of those people who believed that not every woman was born with parenting or nurturing skills, and rightfully so. She also believed in putting her heart and soul into everything that she chose to do. And it was no different when she decided to embrace parenthood.
The birth of Aarav brought with it tons of dreams about her son’s future. These ranged from excitement about childhood mischief to brilliance during adolescence. And an adulthood filled with accomplishments!
Pallavi’s mother would look at baby Aarav sleeping peacefully in his cradle and remark, “Enjoy this while it lasts Pallu. In a couple of years you will have your hands full, dealing with all his pranks.”
The years passed and as her mother predicted, Pallavi had her hands full. But it was not in the manner in which she expected.
When Aarav was two, he found it very difficult to make eye contact with people who were talking to him. He hated nail cuts and haircuts – he would throw a loud tantrum when it was time for a nail or a haircut. Introducing him to food that was not crunchy was a mountainous task; and he abhorred fruits and vegetables with ardent fervor.
He fancied the wheels on his toy truck more than the toy itself. He walked around on tiptoes and would spin like a spinning top. The feeling of being dizzy was clearly an alien concept to him. Sleepless nights were the order of the day, but it did not take away the boundless energy that he possessed. He did not respond to people. He just did not speak!
When he was two and a half years old, Aarav was diagnosed with autism. Pallavi’s life soon became busy. Between the slew of therapies and sleepless nights, she was an exhausted woman. Her only hope was that Aarav would talk someday.
Aarav turned five but speech was as elusive as ever. Aarav’s therapist suggested introducing an alternative mode of communication using a picture-based communication app on a tablet.
“Does that mean Aarav is never going to talk?”, exclaimed Pallavi in dismay. “Let us take it one day at a time”, said Arun, her husband. “Having a mode of expression will save us from all the detective work and guessing games.”
A Sense of Loss
By the time Aarav turned six, he had picked up the ability to use an AAC app. Using the app, he communicated not just his wants, but also his feelings. Life had surely taken a turn for the better. Yet, what remained with Pallavi was an inexplicable sense of loss. She would never know what it meant to have a little prankster for a child, would she?
Sunday morning saw Pallavi, Arun, and Aarav getting ready to go to the airport. It was Navratri season – the festival of nine nights. It was the time of the year that beckoned them back to their hometown to meet their extended family.
Pallavi had mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, she was looking forward to meeting her parents and her sister. On the other hand, she did not want to listen to her cousins’ accounts of all the things that their children did. After all, in that context, she had nothing to say.
Aarav was pacing around, his tablet in hand when he suddenly loaded the AAC app and said “Spider”.
“Spider!? Where”, shrieked Pallavi who was petrified of them. She could handle cockroaches and even rodents – but spiders? Those were beyond her scope of tolerance.
“Dress” said Aarav on his tablet.
Pallavi dusted her kurta rapidly only to find Aarav giggling, his eyes shining with mischief. Pallavi could not believe her eyes! Did her son just pull a prank on her?!
“Where is the spider Aarav?”, asked Pallavi, a wide smile replacing the disbelief.
“Joke“, said Aarav on his tablet!!
Autism, especially non-speaking autism, is largely viewed as a tragedy by many quarters. As a non-speaker, I believe that autism is not something to grieve about. Grief is when a child is denied their voice, purely because of misnomers and false beliefs. Think about this and now think again!!!
Avaz Megaphone is a platform for neurodivergent individuals to express themselves through the written word. We accept opinion pieces, short stories and poetry. Authors of accepted works will receive an honorarium. To make a submission please email us on: email@example.com
Student & Writer
Aditi Sowmyanarayan is an eighteen year old who uses Avaz, a text to speech app, to communicate. She goes to Ishanya India Foundation, a special school in Bengaluru. Aditi is an avid blogger and an aspiring writer. She blogs on www.smallstepbigthought.blogspot.com
She can be reached on Instagram at writeaditi and on her Facebook page : small step big thought