Early on, we knew that David had a serious delay in the development of his speech, but I did not realize the importance of non-verbal communication until I was preparing for his appointment at the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders. In order even to "qualify" for an appointment, I had to answer a battery of questions--first over the phone and then followed by several different written questionnaires. I was told at the time of that very first phone call that David had flunked the preliminary evaluation mainly because he never pointed to anything. He never waved hello or goodbye. He didn't high five anyone. So, David wasn't just delayed in speech, but in non-verbal communication as well.
As a mother, I had never given much thought to the fact that David didn't really wave to anyone, but now I became obsessed. It really is a wonder that I did not run over the neighbor children as I pulled out of the driveway, waving like a mad woman. I might be hopeful for a moment as I watched David, but would get tears in my eyes as I quickly realized that he wasn't waving back to me, just flapping his hands in excitement as he watched the garage door close. Now, I could compare waving to algebra--a skill that you really could survive adulthood without developing and pointing isn't polite anyway, but we worked very hard at helping David to develop these skills.
Fast forward two years after his diagnosis. David and I are in the car with Andrew, my older son. We are in a hurry, as usual, and I am thinking about the day's schedule as I drive. Andrew calls to me, "Mom look." I glance over to see a woman in a shabby statue of liberty costume, standing on the street corner with a sign for Liberty Tax Service and waving to passing traffic. David is in the back seat, smiling and waving furiously back at her. I chuckled as I thought of the thousands and thousands of dollars spent on therapy so David can wave to Lady Liberty. I only wish that she had known the significance of that one wave from one of the hundreds of passing cars.