Over the last couple of weeks, Alphonse has been very loud and vocal in his sleep talk. Usually, we wake up to a garble of sounds mixed with groans, sighs, and a smattering of giggles.
For a pre-verbal individual with severe autism, language has been one of the most difficult things he has ever had to deal with. Even today, at four months short of 19, Alphonse can only speak a few words, and even then, they are often unintelligible to others except his family.
So most nights, we hear words like these:
They are quite cute, actually. Obviously, no one does made-up words like Alphonse. 🙂
When he is particularly loud in his sleep talk, we check on him, tuck him again, and wait till he quiets down. We do this at least once a night, even twice on some nights. Of late, the frequency and duration of his sleep talk have increased, causing us to awaken more times.
Last week, however, there was a new word in his sleep vocabulary. Unlike his made-up words, this one was real. It was quite unusual for him to say this specific word because awake, he will only say it when he is prompted with certain questions like “What’s my name?” if I ask the question and “Who (whom) do you love?” when asked by others. And yes, once or twice in the four years since he has learned the word, he has been known to shout this out when he is frustrated and in need of help.
That night, when I first heard it, I was amazed. Shocked even. In between his repeated mutterings of this word, Alphonse laughed and giggled loudly. He even clapped his hands a few times. I had to shine a small light on him to see if he was really asleep.
“Mom.” Giggles. “Mom mom.” Claps hands. “Momma momma mom mom.”
My heart melted when I heard him say my name. He has said it so rarely that in the past, I was unsure if he really knew I was his mother. And yet that night, when he said it, I knew in my heart that he knew.
Can any word be sweeter than this?