How My Son on the Autism Spectrum Is Using His Voice in His Own Way


My son Leo clutches his hands tightly beneath his chest, his gaze alternating between me and the television screen, his expression seems steadfast and intent on communicating.

His brain knows what he wants, yet he struggles to put words together to tell me.

“What do you want, baby?” I ask. “What movie?”

I prepare to run through his list of favorites, hoping I’ll stumble upon the film he’s seeking. I hope upon hearing the title he wants, he will try to imitate the sound using his sweet voice, or that I’ll be able to gauge from Leo’s visual cues which movie he wants to see.

Boy standing in living room in front of TV with the movie "Finding Dory" on

Before I can utter a sound, my boy, with fierce determination blurts out, “Nemo, fish, duck, Dory!”

“You want Dory?” I ask, my heart swelling with pride and a deep sense of affirmation that connections are being made.

While he might not know the title of his new favorite film, “Finding Dory,” Leo problem-solved. He used language he knows connected to the film to express what he wants.

He communicated.

“Nemo, fish, duck, Dory,” is currently Leo’s new go-to phrase for requesting the movie he adores — as is “Woody fly in the sky,” for “Toy Story,” and “Monster,” for “Monster’s Inc.” And just recently, we figured out that his requests for “House” was a request for the Pixar film, “Up.”

My boy, who has been described in many recent evaluations as primarily nonverbal, continues to prove what he is capable of.

By fostering, supporting and encouraging the things that bring him joy, his passions continue to be an avenue for progress and growth.

And just like Dory, Leo will do these things in his own time, and in his own unique and special way.

Follow this journey at Life With Leo.

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