I Will Give You The World Kid

For the first five years of my son’s life, he never asked me for anything. No birthday presents. No trips to Lego Land. No demanding things in the Target checkout line.

Some of you with children may think I am lucky.

I don’t look at it that way. Until you live it, you can never truly understand either.

For the first few years of Cooper’s life, he really never asked for anything. He never told us when he was hungry. He never asked for a drink. He never told us when his diaper needed to be changed.

I didn’t know his favorite color. Or his favorite animal or food. Or why he liked trains so much.

We did a lot of guessing. And we pretty much did everything for him. Of course we’d communicate with him. I don’t think any mother has ever said more speech sounds than me.

‘Cooper do you want some mmmmmmm-ilk?’ ‘Yes or no?’

But there was never a response. We’d give choices. Nothing. We tried pictures. We tried it all.

Those beginning years were hard.

Cooper would wake up in the morning and wander. Wander throughout our house. Picking things up. Investigating. He’d ultimately end up at the television. Watching Barney or Thomas. Or whatever show was on PBS kids at the time.

His eyes would be glued to the tv. Standing directly in front of it. Never sitting. If we took him away he’d scream. As if saying, ‘what am I supposed to do now?’

We’d take him outside. We’d show him his slide, swing and sandbox. We spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars on toys. We tried. Good God did we try.

I would spend my days sitting on the floor in front of him, or moving with him, trying to get him to stack blocks or hold a crayon. I’d move with him, trying to get his attention. Almost willing it to happen.

At times I felt like a dancing monkey trying to get his attention.

I’d google ‘sensory activities’ for toddlers. I’d spend my paycheck buying educational toys. I kept thinking I would eventually find something he cared about.

Only, in those beginning years, I never did.

And then he was four. He started grabbing his own snacks. His own drinks. He’d climb counter tops and open cupboards. I’d walk into the kitchen and he’d be on top of the fridge grabbing a box of cereal.

I’d scream every time.

I quickly learned about locks, gates and other ways to keep a child safe.

Or I’d walk in the living room and he’d be sitting on the floor in front of the television eating. And I’d wonder, am I done now? My only way to engage him was food. Is this over?

I remember we moved a television into his bedroom so he could watch his never ending movies however loudly he wanted. Jamie and I wanted our living room back. Even if only for a second. We wanted the cushions to stay on our couches. We wanted to watch the news. And ultimately, we wanted him to come out of his room and make requests.

Only, it failed. He never left his bedroom. I found myself sitting in there with him. Staring at him. Wondering what he was thinking. Missing him. I had thought eventually he would come out and join our family. Only he never did.

And then he was five. Many things changed at age five. He was given his first speech device. His therapists spent hours and hours teaching him to push buttons that said, ‘I want chicken nuggets’ and ‘I want Capri Sun.’

This was language.  This was the communication we waited for.  This was it I guess.

Only, it still stung.

There were no requests to play games or build a fort or go for a walk. There were no endless conversations about dinosaurs or trains. There was only forced communication. But, it was something. It was a start.

I remember the first time he actually asked me for something. Isn’t that crazy? What parent can say that. It was his last trip to Target. It was well over a year ago. I was pushing him manically through Target, all 70 pounds of him in the shopping cart, waiting for the meltdown that always happened. And he pointed to the DVD, Cars. He screamed. He jumped (in the cart). He smiled.

I handed it to him and said, ‘do you want this?’ And with a clear as day sound he said yes.

And just like that, we spent the next two months watching Cars.

It was the best $19.99 I’ve ever spent.

Today, Cooper is seven. It’s a bit better now. He still doesn’t ask me for toys or trips. There is no watching cartoons and asking for action figures. Or the latest Nerf Gun. Or to go see a movie.

He is still technically nonverbal. He has no spoken words. But he does communicate with his speech device, sounds, and sign language.

He does ask me for a few different things, repetitively. And I can’t even begin to tell you how special they are to his father and I. We would give him anything he asked for. If he’d only just ask.

Whenever a request is made, and I mean whenever, no matter how small, or how big, we acknowledge them. We smile. We answer.

We do this because we know how hard we worked to get them. And that they might go away.

His favorite requests are….

Every single day he points to the door and makes a choo choo sound. He is telling me that he wants to go to Duluth, MN and see Thomas the Train.

Every single day he asks me to throw him a party. He wants his grandparents to come too. He wants ‘party, presents, cake, balloons.’

He asks me to go swimming and to go in the boat. Even if it’s mid-December in Minnesota.

He asks me for help when he needs it.

He tells me he wants Santa to shoot off the fireworks this year. And he wants a Christmas Tree.

He asks his therapists every single day for me. Which melts my heart more than I can ever tell you.

He demands that I find his favorite videos on YouTube.

He tells me what he would like to eat. And drink. And wear that day.

Some people laugh when I share the random requests that Cooper has for us. Boat rides in December, Santa shooting off fireworks and birthday parties year round. Little do they know, I will most likely make them happen. Jamie and I will kill ourselves to give him what he asks for.

Because, when has asks, we know it’s something he really wants. And we will give him the world because he let us into his…even if just for a second.

Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook and subscribe to our newsletter.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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When my son was first diagnosed with autism no one was talking about it. Autism was hidden. I vow to change that.
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