Mafe Maria: Personal stories by autism parent mentor, Maria Stultz

I sign, you sign, he signs!

With all the recent turmoil, I had completely forgotten to document a very important milestone: Joaquin signs!… It has taken us months, throughout all of which Joey kept asking me: [dumb masculine voice] “Is he ever going to sign?”. And what did I know?… Although Joaquin wasn’t signing, he reacted very clearly to my signs. And that was enough. But now he’s figured out that he can do something to let me know exactly what he wants. And when he figured this out (and still now), he was so excited!

“I want MILK”…
“See how I’m drinking MILK?”…
“MILK, daddy. MILK”…
“See how I can sign MILK?”…
“How about some more MILK?…”

At this point, his vocabulary includes only two signs: “Milk”, which he’s been waving proudly for several weeks now, and Joey’s made–up sign for “fan”. It’s adorable… and sometimes, hilarious.

Like yesterday. We’ve noticed that to Joaquin, “milk” doesn’t necessarily mean “milk”, but any drink on his regular cup. So, trying to teach him the difference, for dinner I offered him water instead of milk. He was a thirsty baby, and gulped 3oz at once. Then, he announces “MILK”. Signing, I explain to him that this is “WATER”. “MILK”, he requests. “No, baby, this is not milk… what you want is WATER… Let me show you…”. So I get two cups, one with water, the other with milk. I make the sign for water, say the word, and offer it to him. I pull it out, and do the same with the milk. “MILK” he requests again. So I give him milk. “Puahhhhh!!!!” — He spits it. “MILK WOMAN, MILK”. So I tell him once more that what we wants is W A A A T E R (I help him make the sign with his own little hands). I let go of him and he continues the motion “W H A D D D D D A… Whatever! You know what I mean!!!”.

So obviously this is just the beginning, and there’s much to be learned. Joaquin understands our signs (milk, eat, change, daddy), but his ability to sign back to us is going to help all three of us a lot in the coming months if, as the experts say, Joaquin takes a while to start speaking because he’s learning English and Spanish at the same time.

I can’t even tell you how cute it is when he — not very subtly — turns my face to look at him, and signs “milk” smiling at me. I want to eat him and give him all the milk in the world!

Welcome to my parent mentoring service

Hello, you Super mom of an Awesome autistic child.

If my experience and words speak to you, I invite you to learn about my mentoring service for autism parents.

Intentional parenting, development, and education for our children is my passion. My purpose is to empower you with the emotional and practical support you need to thrive as you reach for every outcome you dream of for you and your child’s life.

Learn More