Why Can’t James Talk?

James’ older sister asked a killer question this morning: “Why can’t James talk? Why can’t he say things the way I can?”
We’ve had variations on this subject before, where I’ve explained that he can talk, and that he’s much better than he used to be … that most people do things in their own time and way.

This morning, we talked about how sometimes the parts of the brain that control what we want to say and the parts that control the muscles we use to talk sometimes don’t work right or can’t talk with each other very well. It got me thinking about aphasia and some people having to be trained to relearn to speak. The people who want to use one word, but have another come out instead.

I’ve seen James want to tell me something — I can read it on his face and in his eyes. I’ll watch his mouth open and shut and hear strange sounds come out of his throat. Often, I never get to hear that thought. I’ve seen him blissfully happy, doing his verbal stimming of “Eeeeee-eeeeee-eeeeeeee-eeeeeeeee!” I’ve heard him do some beautiful mimicking, and scripting things he’s heard from tv shows and using them as conversation soundbites — appropriately too.

I wish I could watch what happens to my son’s brain as he struggles to master speech, and understand what is said to him. I wish I has successful progressions to compare it with, so I could maybe figure out a better way to help him not struggle so much to communicate. I wish we could have some of those “why is the sky blue?” conversations.

I am very happy he’s come as far as he has. Three years ago, he was nonverbal. Tonight I asked him to find his dad to tell him dinner is ready and he did just that. I still have questions, though. What can I do to help? Why is it so tough for him? What do I tell my daughter when the next question comes up about why her brother is so different?

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For James
A Blog to chronicle our son's journey through developmental delays and dealing with austisic disorder.
For James


A Blog to chronicle our son's journey through developmental delays and dealing with austisic disorder.

0 thoughts on “Why Can’t James Talk?

  • i am autistic, i’m 53, married and have 2 kids, i’m an RN, when we are under stress it is more difficult for us to speak. remember, we have to translate our visual thoughts into verbal language. we are a little more evolved and prefer non verbal language. are u using dpp iv and enzymes? that helps alot too’. call me . sheryle prince. 740-403-2377.

  • It will help when he learns to read and write. I write a whole lot better than I speak because I see the words in my head, instead of hearing them. I also have learned quite a bit of ASL which helps when I can FEEL the word, but can’t see or hear it… LOL I also think words in Spanish and sometimes Hebrew, Welsh, Irish Gaelic, and French. I will think “C’est la vie” and then translate it to, “Such is life.” Or I’ll think, “Quien es?” and then remember to ask “Who is it?” Or I’ll just yell at everyone, “SHEKET!” which is Hebrew for “shut up.” Worse is the one time I yelled “Enough” in Hebrew… because it is “Die”… the person I yelled it at thought I was telling him I wanted him to die… Uh, no… I meant, “Enough.” Oops.

    I can’t say half the words I know. I would probably speak several languages fluently if it weren’t for the fact that I just can’t say the words. The double R sound in Spanish is beyond my ability. What can I say? Language is a fascinating thing… and nine tenths of communication is non-verbal anyway.

  • That sounds really tough, but it’s wonderful that your son has made so much progress in the past 3 years. I don’t have any family members with autism, but for some reason this condition has always been important to me. It’s amazing what these children overcome so that they can relate to and communicate with the people around them. How old are your children? Your daughter may be ready to learn more about Autism and how she can try to help her brother communicate. Children generally deserve more credit than most of us are willing to give them at first. 🙂

  • I think you should explain to her that he has autism(? I am guessing b/c this is autism).  There are a lot of books out there that discuss how to explain it to children in an age appropriate way.  There are good links on the web that you can find.  Just keep answering her questions even if you have to answer them again and again.  It’s normal to have to do this for children.

    I would encourage him to talk about things that he likes. When he seems to be struggling to find the words to say something, if you can see he is excited acknowledge that and ask him what he is excited (upset etc) about.  If he is still struggling let him know that sometimes peoples thoughts go so fast that it is hard to get them all out at once and you just have to wait for them to come more slowly before sharing.


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