Home > In Their Own Words > In Their Own Words – Matthew’s Talking Dream

In Their Own Words – Matthew’s Talking Dream

This “In Their Own Words” is by Debbie Simon Pacholder. She and her husband, Tom, have three children. Their six-year-old son, Matthew, has autism and is non-verbal.

I am home on a Saturday, in the kitchen, with all three kids buzzing about.  Allison and Shannon, our two-year-old twins, are teasing each other with their favorite bunnies.  Tom, my husband, watches them and laughs.  Matthew, our six-year-old, is at the refrigerator.  He touches the water dispenser with his finger, then suddenly turns to face me.  “Mom, can I please have a glass of water,” he asks, slowly and distinctly, carefully looking me in the eye.

Instinctively, I head toward the cabinet to get a cup.  Then, it hits me.  My son has spoken – and not just “no”or “yeahhh.”  My son has uttered a full sentence!  MY SON HAS UTTERED A FULL SENTENCE!

“YAY, Matthew!” I shout, flooded with happiness and relief.  He smiles sheepishly and accepts my hug. “Did you hear Matthew; DID YOU HEAR HIM?” I shriek.  “He just asked me for a glass of water!”  His voice is so full and beautiful. I think, this is what winning the lottery must feel like.

Tom is too surprised to form words, but the girls circle around Matthew and touch him, like he’s a rock star.  “Yay, Boy!” Allison sings.  “Matthew, talking!  Matthew, talking!” Shannon says, and flings her arms around him.  He smiles only slightly, but his deep blue eyes are alight with excitement.

Fast forward to the next day.  I’m at school, with all three kids.  I’m afraid.  Afraid Matthew will stop talking, that the day before was just an anomaly.  Yet, he’s speaking.  Words.  Phrases.  Sentences.  He’s had a breakthrough; he’s come out of it. I hold my breath.

“I strongly recommend you send all three kids here next year,” the director tells me, while they play nearby. She nods her head toward the twins.  “They’re doing incredibly well – and I see how much they have been able to help their brother.” She glances at Matthew, who’s playing with a toy truck, appropriately.

I’m about to answer, but something stops me.  A sound.  Click!  The safety gate to Matthew’s  room.  He’s up, and it’s 6:00 a.m.  Rudely, I’m jolted back to reality:  I’d been dreaming all along.

Not that I should have been surprised.  I’ve had this dream before, the Matthew’s Talking Dream. In the last one, we’re in a room with only a TV, and he tells me he wants to watch Frasier. Totally random. But this one is different; it mimics reality.

Matthew has put words together in real life three times. First, when he was two, at the Noah’s Ark pool – a water Disneyland for toddlers.  We’re at a birthday party. Matthew’s playing in the water, which churns like a hot tub, when it suddenly becomes still.  We whisk him out and head toward the pizza and birthday cake.  “Go back!” he shouts quickly.  We’re stunned.

Next,  Matthew’s four, and swimming.   His instructor, Gina, shows him how to dive in the water for the toy fish she leaves at the bottom of the pool.  She’s talking, and Matthew shifts his feet from one side to the other, impatiently.  “I got it!” he exclaims. Did I hear right?  I look at Gina for confirmation. “He said it,” she laughs.  Matthew looks in my direction, then focuses on the water, like it’s no big deal.

The next week, more instructions from Gina.  “I’ll do it!” Matthew says.  “I can’t believe it,” I shake my head.  “Clearly, he can talk.”  “Yep,” Gina smiles.  “He can.”

I look at Matthew.  “I’m on to you, buddy,” I tell him.  “Your secret is out.”  He pretends not to hear.

That was two years ago.  No phrases or sentences since.  Not even in the pool. I try not to be upset, but I just don’t get it. Hours and hours of swimming, ABA, OT, hippotherapy, oral motor therapy, reflex integration therapy, and still no more speech.  He’s way, way overdue, and I’ve told him as much.

Last week, we’re playing on his bed. He’s laughing and hugging me, like a typical six-year-old.  I remember what one of his therapists told us.  He knows how to do so, so many things.  He’s just choosing not to.

“Matthew, I know you can do it,” I whisper.  “You can talk to us.  I want you to talk to us. You know Allison and Shannon won’t let you stay quiet for much longer.  You’re going to have to make the decision to talk.  I hope it’s soon.”  He stares into my eyes, surprised. I stare back. He laughs – a deep giggle from his belly – then covers my mouth with both of his hands.  I move them away and hold them in mine. “Think about what I said,” I tell him.  “Goodnight … I love you.”

The next morning, he’s the first to wake up, and runs into our bedroom.  “Good morning sunshine,” I say, melodiously.  He looks at me and comes to my side of the bed.  “Mommm!”

It’s not a sentence, but it’s a start.

“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to editors@autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.


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  1. September 1, 2010 at 10:54 am

    My 14yo nonverbal daughter has come to me in my sleep state and held clear, articulate conversations with me. I only wish I could initiate those conversations whenever I want. They don’t happen often enough.

  2. Jennifer
    September 1, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Yay! I’m glad you got to hear him say “Mommm!” I remember the first time my son said that same word, he was 4 years old. I feel that a lot of parents of mainstream kids take for granted what we would call miracles. BUT when those words do come out of our kids’ mouths, it’s the best experience!!! Here’s hoping your son continues on his verbal path!!! :oD

  3. Claire Danko
    September 1, 2010 at 11:31 am

    Twice my son said full sentences out of the blue. The first one was 4 years ago when my friend and I were walking on the trail near our houses. It was opening day of fishing and plenty of men and fish around, he took my friend Donna’s hand and said “there are 5 ducks swimming in the pond”. We looked at each other and she got down on her knees and looked him in the eyes and asked what did you say? He repeated there are 5 ducks swimming in the pond. We looked and there was 5 ducks swimming in the pond! I cried all the way home.
    Next was May 2010 he came into my room at 1 in the morning and climbed into bed with me, I snuggled him close and kissed the top of his head. He said “thank you for the kisses mommy”. I cried for a half an hour holding him.

  4. BarbK
    September 1, 2010 at 11:32 am

    To all parents with autistic children, have faith, patience and hope. My Matthew had spoken a few words until 3, never really sentences. Now at 5 he has “moments of awakening” when he does put things together and I understand what he’s saying. Encourage your children to use words, try PECS, try websites/DVD’s that teach words (www.starfall.com or Sesame Street)….most importantly remember that they understand and may wish to speak, but sometimes cannot. Talk to them, not at them… give them words, use flash cards….give beyond what you think possible and hopefully the words will come. Bless you all

  5. Rich
    September 1, 2010 at 11:43 am

    So my 4 year old non verbal son has, in the last week, said “Hello” (hey-yo!) to the dental hygienist, and when I said “Oh, hey bud, thanks for sneezin’ right into my mouth!” after he did, he liked at me and said “welcome!”
    He also imitated Mel on Jacks Big Music show.

    I’m on to him too :)

  6. Tina
    September 1, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    I am happy you have heard your baby speak that special word “MOM” t really is a great feeling. When my son was 2 1/2-3 we thought he would never speak.(he is now 5) He was diagnosed at 2. He started special ed pre school at almost 3 and from about 3 months into the start of school to current he has been talking every since. It happens sometimes later than others but it can happy I will keep you in my prayers.

  7. September 1, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    My now 15 yr old son was 4 and we went 90 miles to clinic where he was then diagnosed as autistic. In the parking ramp before we went in he said his first sentence “I want to go home.” Great teachers, PECS, reading 10 books a day to him early until 7 or 8; now we get science magazines from the library and discuss time travel, cryptograms, all kinds of great adult stuff! It’ll come eventually! Expose them to as many different things as you can, it helps! Touching them repeatedly when talking to them succintly helps so much. Good luck! I still cry when I read these kinds of stories!

  8. Melissa Pryor
    September 1, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    I have never had a dream like that, but I would love to! My non-verbal three year old son has started the PPCD program at our local elementary school, and after only two weeks he is begining to mimic my husband, and I. I can only hope he decides to pick up his speech and begin to tell us what he thinks. We know he’s such a smart kid, and those wheels are turning, I just want so badly to hear his sweet voice. Good luck to you and your son, here’s hoping you hear that beautiful voice soon.

  9. Rebecca M.
    September 1, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. What a blessing just to read ……

  10. Kristina Kloth
    September 1, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    I have had those dreams where my non-verbal son starts talking and I am so very happy but I have to keep it low key because I am afraid he will not speak again. My son was slow to speak but we did get him to be verbal then all of a sudden when he was 7 1/2 he became completely non-verbal,he is now almost 14. We are hoping that some day he will become verbal again, until then I have videos from when he was little.

  11. Heather Fuentes
    September 1, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Wow, reading just a few stories gives me so much hope, for my Siah. I know he’s in that little body….we just have to do all we can do for him and keep our faith. I had a dream too. I received a call from his teacher telling me to get to the school that I had to see something. Of course I asked what’s wrong please tell me is he okay. She said he’s fine just get here we have to show you something. I got to his classroom and there he was talking……….I just screamed “oh my baby boy found his words”. I just cried and cried. All I can say is believe in your dreams and never give up your faith and hope.

  12. September 2, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Debbie, this really touched me. It’s amazing what comes through in our dreams. My two kids have autism and communication is a big issue with them both. My daughter is 9 and has been nonverbal since she was two. Many times I dreamed of her talking. Watching videos of her when she was two has been painful. You’d have to go through it to understand how hard it is. …..Well, she still isn’t talking, but recently she began communicating through spelling out words on a keyboard. I didn’t even know she could spell!!! It’s been unbelievable! She is this poetic, intelligent and confident child. Every child is different, but keep hope alive and never give up on your dream:)

  13. Becky
    September 3, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Thank you Debbie for sharing your story! My Brett is 6 and non-verbal also. I too have dreams like these. It used to make me sad when I would wake up but now I feel like they are God’s little windows for me to look in to the future and to have that prayer answered that I have prayed for so many times. It makes me feel comforted now. He used to say some phrases when he was about 18 mths but the whole summer before he was 2, no words or sounds at all. He has about 4 words but never has uttered anymore sentences. I keep believing that if he did it before in life, it may just come back. You hear so many stories like that. Until then, we continue to work with communication devices and spelling in the hopes that he will be able to converse that way. More than sounds, I just want to know his thoughts! Keep believing and know that your Matthew is a very special boy! :O)

  14. Roxanne Artis
    September 3, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    I will never EVER forget the day my daughter hushed me with her hand over my mouth, looked me directly in my eyes, and said “I love you”. I was allowed this joy for a short few months before she stopped saying it altogether.

  15. wendy chavis
    September 5, 2010 at 12:30 am

    My son is 5 and non-verbal. I too pray everyday and hope he will speak in full sentences or even say a word.

  16. ileana morales
    September 5, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    My son up to the age of 10, would only say: mama,papa,toy and tom and jerry,but something happened when he turned 11, he started saying more words, then sentences and now he is high functioning and he doesn’t stop talking…..

  17. andre
    September 6, 2010 at 3:52 am

    The first word is the hole in the wall.From here on you can start – eye-Q oil has helped our son a lot as well as speach therapy. All the best.
    Kind regards
    Andre

  18. Marina Rima
    September 7, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    My son stopped talking when he was about 3. By 3.5 he was DX’D with Autism.I remember he had not spoken for around 4 months, when he said, referring to a balloon, upon receiving a replacement, “My other one flew high up into the sky” I remember asking the speech path, “would Matt ever speak again?” She replied, “The sky’s the limit!”. Matt is 18 and in community college now. Hang in there! I think if it was there, it still should be.

  19. Scott T
    September 14, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Way to go Matthew! Proof that you can never give up. He’s in there. “Mom” – What an awesome gift he gave you. One of the most beautiful words in the world. These exceptional kids of ours truly make you appreciate the little things in life.

    Play on Little Man! God Bless. – Scott

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