The Power of Words

“I like good strong words that mean something…” ― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

The quote above is from one of my favorite stories as a child. Little Women reminded me of my youth. I loved the story, and I still do. I think what I liked most about it was the way the story was told. The beautiful words and details that Louisa May Alcott chose to tell her story. I am infatuated with words.

I love to write them and hear the intoxicating way they coalesce to form our innermost thoughts. I love the images that leap out from my mind as a poet or lyricist pours out words as rich thick cream into coffee. Words warm my whole being, they soothe my weary soul. I never imagined the world without words until my son Henry was born.

Henry does not communicate with many words; to be honest, he only speaks about five words on a consistent basis, and even those words are sometimes sporadic. Because he is autistic, it is very hard for him to speak and to learn new words.

It takes countless rounds of repetition for him to learn a word. No exaggeration either, it takes him about a year before he uses a word consistently.

So because of that difficulty, he has developed other ways to communicate. A hand-pulled here, an open palm patting the cupboard. A shrill shriek or a deep growl will tell you he is ecstatic or trying to get your attention. A jerk of his head or the flapping of his hands will tell you he is especially excited for whatever is transpiring around or about him.

I try to imagine expressing myself without words, or for that matter not being able to respond when someone speaks or asks a question of me. I begin to feel anxious and for a brief moment, I see the world through my son’s eyes. He can’t explain himself if his stomach hurts or if the music is too loud.

I long for him to understand how to use words. I long to hear his sweet voice utter simple lines from his favorite book. Maybe that day will come, and maybe it won’t. But I will still embrace and encourage all the small victories that come our way. In the last six months, he learned to say the word happy.

He will only say it if there is a candle in front of him. Do you know why? Because when there is a candle we all sing, “Happy birthday!” The intricate ways of his mind still confuse me, but I am learning and eager to see what else our little Henry has in store for us.

Henry has shown me that the world without words is a difficult one, but it is no less beautiful or fulfilling. His ability to communicate without words demonstrates the depth of who he is. And once all of Henry is unlocked his wondrous and amazing gifts will be shared with us all.

Written by, Tessa Potgeter

Hello, my name is Tessa Potgeter. I am a full-time English teacher and find writing about my journey with my autistic son, Henry,  to be very cathartic. Feel free to check out my blog at Party of Five and Autism.

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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 our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook, subscribe for exclusive videos, 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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