There’s an old saying that “still waters run deep.” Being non-verbal, Zach’s “waters” are very still. But I know there is a lot going on inside him.
Webster’s Dictionary lists one of the meanings of the word “dumb” as “lacking the ability to speak.” They also note that this is often an offensive term. I completely agree. I think this usage of the word should be abandoned. While Zach is currently lacking the ability to speak, he is most definitely NOT dumb.
We mistakenly assume that since a person cannot express their thoughts they must not have them. Here’s a little excerpt from a blog I saw that demonstrates once again that this idea is false.
A year and a half later, Hannah sits with her tutor at a small computer desk in her suburban home outside New York City. Facilitated communication is controversial (critics complain that it’s often the facilitator who is really communicating), but it has clearly turned Hannah’s life around. Since her breakthrough, she no longer spends much of her day watching Sesame Street and Blue’s Clues. Instead, she is working her way through high school biology, algebra and ancient history. “It became obvious fairly quickly that she already knew a lot besides how to read,” says her tutor, Tonette Jacob.
During the silent years, it seems, Hannah was soaking up vast storehouses of information. The girl without language had an extensive vocabulary, a sense of humor and some unusual gifts. One day, when Jacob presented her with a page of 30 or so math problems, Hannah took one look, then typed all 30 answers. Stunned, Jacob asked, “Do you have a photographic memory?” Hannah typed “Yes.”
Before I am corrected by Sheldon Cooper I will acknowledge the semantic error. She does not have a “photographic memory” but an eidetic memory.
This story illustrates what I know to be true of Zach also, that he is “soaking up vast storehouses of information.” He doesn’t seem to pay attention to what is going on around him and then, all of a sudden, he begins clearing his dishes off the dinner table. Unfortunately, he initially cleared them into the trash. But with a little redirection he now very dutifully takes his dishes to the sink.
He also used to leave his empty water bottles just lying around. Then, quite unexpectedly, he started throwing them away. But there might be a current of sibling rivalry motivating this behavior. Its genesis coincided with his brother’s push to recycle. The recycling messages on PBS worked on Micah. He has gotten excited about it so we have given him the job of collecting all the bottles for recycling. This has led to the Bottle Wars as Zach goes to throw his empty (and sometimes not so empty) in the trash can and Micah is horrified and tries to rescue it to put in the recycling bin.
Just like Hannah, Zach loves Sesame Street and Blue’s Clues as well as many others. He has quite a collection of DVD’s we have accumulated over the years. And he seems to have them all catalogued in his brain. He will look through the DVD’s and then go find the picture (PEC, Picture Exchange Communication) of the show he is looking for and give it to me. Sure enough, the one he wants is not in the pile. It is usually one that got so old and scratched that it no longer played and we got rid of it. But Zach still remembers it and can recall it out of nowhere. Still waters, indeed.