It was the fall of 2016. Our dew covered lawn provided safe harbor for a few of the bubbles that had landed rather gently.
Beginning to realize my son’s condition, I watched as he stopped popping the bubbles, and gently squatted alongside to gaze within the sparkling spheres. At about 16 months, he lost his ability to speak.
At 18 months, one of the only words he could say was “bubbles.” I used bubbles daily as a tool to teach body awareness. If a child is walking, looking up, and tracking a moving item, their body awareness increases with practice. But this day, he no longer wanted to pop them. He just stared.
Like the curious cat, I dove right in to his point of view. I simply squatted right beside him. I wanted to see what had ceased one of his favorite activities.
It was beautiful. It was colorful. It was a new perspective. He had discovered details most would never notice. This was the final puzzle piece. I had noticed his arm flapping, the obvious regression in language, how he didn’t respond to his name, and many other symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but this is when I started to understand him. It was a turning point in my parenting style and our relationship.
From this, I developed an idea. I use my artwork inspired by him as a platform to teach people about autism and similar disorders. “The Gifting Bubbles” is a direct result of how my whole world changed when autism entered our family. I am so thankful for the support of my family, friends, and community as I continue to share Leo’s story.
My son began talking rather decently again around 22 months. During his silent few months, I had worked with endlessly with my five-year-old daughter, a soon-to-be kindergartner, on numerous subjects.
Before Leo’s 2nd birthday in April 2017, he could already recite the alphabet and each phonetic sound, name all of the planets from our solar system (and a few dwarf planets!) in order, count to 100 by ones and tens, name all the days of the week and the months of the year, identify shapes such as trapezoid and hexagon, name colors ranging from black, white, gray, purple, pink, and he began reading commonly seen words such as orange, number, purple, twelve, who, about, away, etc.
I continue to share his story, but also explain how he doesn’t communicate properly. Nor does he understand most simple instructions. Soon enough, language will probably come. For now, we have a long road ahead of us, but it’s a journey for which I have prepared. I encourage you to be an advocate for your child. You’ll always be his/her voice!
Help me in sharing autism awareness, so that each child may find the resources necessary to live an independent, successful, and happy life.
Growing up in a small North Georgia town, it took many years to adjust to the PNW lifestyle she currently lives. Photographer Jana Tams of Tango Reflections is now using her artwork to share knowledge about autism and how some symptoms may come to light in early childhood.
This article was featured in Issue 68 – ASD Strategies in Action