Third of Three Firsts: A Nod

The winter seemed eternal this year. Only in mid-April did spring’s first tentative harbingers arrive—daffodil buds, pollen, temperatures in the 60s.

“Martin,” I asked, one of those first warm afternoons, “it’s such a beautiful day. Shall we open the sliding doors and let some air into our family room?”

Martin stopped playing his toy saxophone and looked at me.

As I’ve learned through RDI, I waited five seconds, to give Martin’s mind time to absorb the question, and then said, “What do you think? Shall we let some air in?”

Martin still made no verbal response.

But after another second passed, he looked at me again and nodded. Twice.

Beginning very young, even before his diagnosis, Martin could shake his head no. (He could verbalize “no,” too, when he didn’t want something. Learning to verbalize “yes” when he wanted something, as opposed to repeating the last words he heard, took much longer. I believe that is common in echolalic children.) Nodding, however, never came naturally to Martin. I had to teach him the physical motion; I put my palms over his ears, spread my fingers, and gently maneuvered his head up- and downward. After months of practicing the motion, I could get Martin to nod on his own by requesting, “Can you show me ‘yes’ with your head?”

This time—his nonverbal response to, “What do you think? Shall we let some air in?”—was the first time I’ve witnessed Martin nodding unprompted. The nod was awkward, as they always are. I didn’t care.

I said, “Thank you for answering me with your head, Martin!”

Then I opened the sliding doors, and let the fragrant springtime air drift through our home.

Daffodils (and those pesky dandelions!) bloom in our front garden. I’ll nod to that.

Daffodils (and those pesky dandelions!) bloom in our front garden. I’ll nod to that.