Friday, January 23, 2009

Retarded? Hardly

It was early summer. David was 4 years old. He could not talk except as echolalia. Echolalia is an autistic form of speech. It involves repeating a single word of a question that is asked of him. For example, I would ask David if he wanted some milk. David would reply, "Milk." He could also sign a few words. So if I asked him if he wanted some more cereal, he would sign "more." I am not sure if even the signing was not a form of echolalia because I never saw him sign more than one word at a time and only if the word was said by the person talking to him. Because David could not talk, it was difficult to tell what intelligence David did or did not have.

One Sunday afternoon, our telephone went out. I went out the the telephone box which was on the side of the house at the back. David was on his rocking horse rocking back and forth. I opened the box, unplugged the house and plugged in one of our phones to see if the problem was in our house or in the network. It was in the network. I plugged the house back in, screwed the box shut and went to a neighbor's house to call the phone company to report the outage.

On Monday afternoon, I got a phone call at work. I heard a mumble that sounded like R2D2 would have sounded if he had a tongue. It was David!

"Dave? Did Mom call for you? Is she nearby? Can you put her on?"

David continued to mumble. Suddenly I hear my wife, Yvette's voice on the phone.

"Do you know where he is calling from? He is calling from the box at the back of the house," she said.

"David called me?!" I asked in surprise.

"He called you. He brought a phone down from upstairs and plugged in into the phone box outside." she replied.

"David dialed the phone?" I needed this clarified.

"Yes, he knows your work phone number. I did not call you." Yvette said.

I was speechless. David was almost four. He could not talk, and yet he knew my phone number at work. It made no sense. David's pediatrician told us that most autistic children were retarded. I knew he had to be wrong. At least he was in David's case.

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