Posted by: Leigh Reynolds | July 26, 2013

Two Syllables


Momma’s Boy

Wil is the youngest of our three kids, and when he was born I was determined that he would say “Momma” first. Both of the other kiddos has said Dada first and it is still a bone of contention with me. I carried them for 9 months, I gave birth to them, big heads and all! I mean, come on!

So I said momma or mommy to him all the time. (Truth be told, I prefer mommy, but mama is easier to say so I was gaming the system.) “Momma Loves you!” “Momma is getting your lunch.” “Momma’s got you.” I probably said momma 100 times a day. I was determined… And I won.

When he started to make word-like sounds, “ma” was one of them. Momma came next. Then he was saying it to me. Bliss, I tell you. I loved hearing him say momma (and, I will admit, enjoyed a little guilty pleasure that he had not said much dada yet.) I encouraged him to say it as much as he liked, and I found joy in the sound.

And then it stopped.

As the autism began to creep in, the “Momma” and the other few consistent words he had crept out. As we traveled from concern to full-blown diagnosis I wasn’t sure when or if I’d ever hear it again. I tried to be thankful that I had a short time of him calling me Momma, as I learned so many mothers with kids on the spectrum never heard it, but it was hard.

Wil has been in therapy now for 9 months. His eye contact and engagement have dramatically improved. He has learned how to functionally communicate what he wants with gestures and such. He has begun to say so many words, largely in therapy but often spontaneously – identifying things in books or on the iPad, like zebra or cow or even cereal and hot dog. Today is was ‘couch’ and ‘red ball’ and ‘toothbrush.’

Every new word is so exciting, and though we can read books together or work on flashcards and it is wonderful to hear him speak, it is not yet conversational. He will often say something like “banana” when I ask him “what’s that?” and point to it in a book or on a flash card, but if we’re in the kitchen and he wants a banana, I can’t get him to say it.

People have told me he says “Momma” after I leave the room, but I haven’t heard it and he certainly hasn’t said it to me. I remind myself that he knows who I am and tells me he loves me all the time, just not with words. I have gotten to the place where I am OK with that.

Then tonight comes along. We had family over for dinner to celebrate Tess & Jake’s birthdays. Wil was in the high chair, had finished eating, and wanted out. Patrick went over to get him and he pushed him away and said “Momma”. I was sure it was just his babble, ma ma, not really “Momma”, but I walked over, leaned down and he looked into my eyes, smiled that amazing smile, and said clear as a bell “Mommy!” and pulled me to him.

I know it doesn’t sound like much. I am sure it is hard to understand why it merits an entire blog post. But it is so much  more than two syllables. It is a level of connection that we had, that I watched slip away, that I wasn’t sure would ever come back so I chose to be Ok without it. Then, out of the blue, there it is, sweeter than I ever knew.

I want to hold on to it and remember every nuance of that moment because here’s the thing with autism; you never know when or if it’ll come around again.

Two little syllables, that tonight said so much.



  1. Good one!

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