My son is autistic.
He repeats words and phrases to comfort himself and make himself laugh. He sometimes picks up on words when you least expect him to, and then repeats them for weeks.
He uses language to communicate emotions by attaching emotions to words, even when those words may make no sense out of their original context. He often repeats blocks of words and phrases he has heard before, modifying them slightly to fit what he wants the words to do.
When frustrated or angry, he often runs out of words and cannot process language effectively, either expressive or receptive. The result can be a meltdown or an attempt to escape the painful emotions.
He loves people, but is unsure how to talk to them or react to them, and finds them confusingly unpredictable. He also loves and fears dogs for the same reason.
He reads beautifully, but hates doing it because it "hurts".
If someone is hurt, he is the first to be in at their side and trying to make them feel better.
He loves math. His favorite game is to think up math questions to ask and giggling over the answers.
If someone teases or bullies him, he does not have the social skills to manage the situation or the language skills to effectively report it to someone else. He is hurt and sad, but cannot explain why. He gets grumpy and touchy, but can't express the connections to the problem.
He understands you better if you use sign language while you are speaking. If you show him "I love you," he will say, "I love you, too!"
If you ask him about his day, he will recite his schedule, or script an answer. But he gets grumpy if you don't ask.
I remember the silence. I remember the days of wondering what was brewing in that golden head, and eagerly awaiting every sound, every word. My son's voice may not be what anyone expects, but if you listen, he is filled with the joy of the world around him, and is sharing it the best he can- and has insights to share in seeing the world through his eyes. You just have to take the time to listen.
So listen up. Joey is speaking.