Sotto Voce (#262)

Charlie is a big boy but he tends to speak in a soft, light, sotto voce voice. This morning, I would not have heard him, poking in the freezer, say “chicken” if I had not been standing next to him.

“Chicken for breakfast?” I asked.

“Yes.” (A little bit louder.)

Increasing the volume of his speech is something we are working on in Charlie’s ABA sessions as well as his speech therapy–more than once, a yelp or thump from the second floor has meant a frantic call for help, perhaps to find a missing favorite thing.
It occurred to me today that Charlie tends to speak in an undertone, quickly, and low (and sweet). When he is upset, he has been (I’m hypothesizing) using non-verbal as well as verbal forms of expression—the yells, the knocks, the startling cries, sometimes (but only sometimes) in combination with words.

At school this morning, Charlie said “Grandma” and flopped onto the floor. I did not know this until I had read his teacher’s note in his communication book. By chance, I had called my mother-in-law at noon.

The phone rang one, two, three, four times—was she eating? just not going to reach for the phone on the tray table over her hospital bed?

“Yes?” Her voice wavered like static, or a feather in the breeze. She wanted to know how Charlie was and I spoke, purposefully upbeat, about yesterday. “Very good, dear.”

“Who’s been visiting you? Jim’s coming to see you tonight.”

“Yes, dear. That’s good, Charlie’s doing good, bye now.”

“Bye, hey are you——–” She had already hung up the phone. Charlie is her youngest grandchild and, once he was more than a few months old, he was too much for her to carry; Charlie’s one attempt to pull her out of her chair a few months ago elicited laughs then worry. “Grandma needs to sit,” we had told Charlie. Who knows what confusion–what sadness–Charlie might be feeling to know that, when he visits my in-laws’ empty house, Grandma is not in her usual chair by the lamp?

As we drove home from a late afternoon verbal behavior session (in which Charlie was able to sit for longer periods at the table and also went to sit beside some of the other kids to play), the car started to shake. I felt more than saw Charlie’s strained face and got into the right lane saying,

“Hold my hand.”

“Holdiehannn! Bye.” We went on like that for five more on-and-off rocky minutes and then it was silent.

“Ah kahkahkahkahk!”

“Hmmmm, Charlie…..” I did my best imitation of Charlie’s “phrase,” knowing that if I asked “what did you say” he would not say it again. I could not figure it out, nor the next:


“Yeah,” I said. I had turned off the CD player and the car’s silence grew less and less tense as we headed east. Three blocks from our house, Charlie said,

“Danioh use da fork!”

That’s the name of Charlie’s speech therapist, whom we have not seen for two weeks, as I explained to Charlie. “So we should see her soon.”

Charlie called out the name of his teacher, very clearly.

“I want eat chicken” was his dinner request and he was all attention as I chopped and stir-fryed. Then it was “shower, yes” and, directly afterwards, “bed, yes, goo’ night! Daddy b’ue b’ankett,” his voice a bit louder.

It’s a voice that is meant to be heard.

2 Responses to “Sotto Voce (#262)”
  1. KC'sMommy says:

    Hi Kristina,

    Charlie is such a handsome fellow:)
    He sure is using his words beautifully:)

  2. gretchen says:

    I was also quite taken with today’s picture- stirring the pot. He is a sweetie.

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