By Every Family’s Got One Guest Writer — Nicole Garcia

A Story About the Secret Language of Autism

Image by Rawpixal

I didn’t always see what my son was saying to the world. I had to learn. For months, I lived by trial and error, mostly error, guessing at all of it, trying to get inside of his head.

I had to learn that each of his little quirks was blessings and had meaning. I didn’t always see it that way. I had to let go of myself and open my heart for my son to really enter my world.

I had to learn it…

in the way he holds my hand. He intertwines all his fingers in and around each one of mine, in very particular ways.

He pulls my fingers in strange directions, then he grabs my hand with both of his hands at the same time while we walk. His mysteries unravel every day in all the small things that I once thought I needed to change.

But, these very things…

reveal his love. As we walk up the block to get his big brother at the bus or walk from the car to the grocery store, he pulls each one of my fingers with both of his hands, happily walking and tripping sort of sideways.

At times, I admit, it has felt annoying. I’ve thought to myself, “just walk straight and hold me with only one hand.” But there is a hidden joy, if you search for it, in these small details. I will surely shed tears one day, longing for these days past, when he is older.

“Mama sleep with me!”

he squeals, every morning, as I open his door a crack. His head pops up to see if it’s me.

“I want to climb the volcano. I want to hide.” I climb into his bed, bending my knees up to make the “volcano,” hoping the weight of the two of us won’t break the toddler bed. He squirms under my knees, under the covers.

I lie in his bed.

I am too big, of course, but it’s just right. And if we could stay here all day, just like this, I could protect him and keep him happy.

And before we set out on our day of challenges and special needs modifications, we have a secret world, where everything is just as it should be.

As I drive…

he sits in the back seat and yells, “Mama, can I have your hand.” I can’t resist the way he asks. I compromise, at red lights.

I reach back and let him grab it, and he takes great delight in hiding my hand under the hem of his shorts. If it makes him happy, he can keep it hiding there. The smile in his eyes is worth it.

We even have a secret language…

within his scripting (autistic children who have verbal abilities often repeat things they have heard in a movie or TV show). He quotes a line, a scene, or a sound from any video he has watched repeatedly.

He waits, eagerly, anticipating my correct response. If I have learned the exact line that comes next, his eyes glow with glee to go back and forth recreating the scene in our little world. To an outsider, it might look like the two of us are speaking a different language. We are.

Our secret love language.

And not every moment is happy, but I am also the one who can reach into his world and calm him down.

I have learned to decipher his body language, facial expressions, changes in breathing pattern and muscle tension, changes in speed and type of movement, and his sounds. I know when he needs me.

When I see…

his eyebrows start to furrow, as he glances at me, his look begs me to interpret what is going wrong in his world at that moment. He has a set of rules in his head, that we don’t see, but he must operate by them. 

But, this has all built a beautiful closeness between him and I. Our inner thoughts once worlds apart, can at times collide perfectly. There is an undeniable sense of security for him, as he wraps his arms around my neck, and buries his face in it.

I am his safe haven.

When he is overstimulated by the environment, I remove him from the situations that are too intense. I can hold him in my arms, sing him a song in his ear, ask him to calm down, and he will.

I leave the rest of the world, to enter his. Because in it, there is a sweet satisfaction of knowing I can bring him back to peace. I can help him find his breath and his way in the moments he is panicking.

I am the one he comes to…

when his rebellious choice fails and he needs love and safety again. There is such a blessing in knowing that God has gifted us with having this special relationship.

The things you and I might overlook, are treasures to him. He waits for the moments he is looking forward to patiently.

He taught me…

for example, at the end of his latest favorite movie, “Finding Dory,” they play the song “Unforgettable,” performed by Sia. It is an amazing emotional rendition that speaks to his empathetic abilities and desire for love and to be unforgettable to someone.

Though the world may not always be kind, may his emotional need for connection and love never be overlooked by me.

I am supposed…

to teach my children, but I learn so much from them. My son teaches me to search for the beauty, to not overlook it. Don’t rush the ending. 

But, basque a little longer in the beauty that is happening right here, right now. It will be well worth it.


This story was previously published on Nicole’s blog Atypically Joyful

Nicole Garcia is a mom to two strong-spirited boys, one who has autism. She is still learning as she goes! Nicole loves writing and sharing her family’s story of life, mothering, and special needs parenting on her blog Atypically Joyful. She loves to give and find encouragement through others who are on similar journeys.