Growing up one of my favorite movies was Mr. Holland’s Opus. The main story centers around Richard Dreyfuss’ character, Glenn Holland, who takes a job as a music teacher just to make ends meet.
One of the sub-stories in the movie focuses on Dreyfuss’ character’s son, Cole. Cole is diagnosed with a hearing impairment as an infant. Dreyfuss’ character becomes saddened and disengaged about Cole because he thinks that his son will never be able to enjoy and experience music the way he has his entire life.
So why on Earth am I mentioning this movie in my blog?! No I haven’t suddenly taken a new job as a movie critic, I actually do have a point. There is a scene early on in the movie between Richard Dreyfuss and his wife played by, Glenne Headly, that I think about often after we received Gavin’s diagnosis. Dreyfuss and Headly are arguing about enrolling Cole in sign language classes. Dreyfuss is against it because he thinks Cole will never speak, but Headly’s character is arguing that she wants to do it because she thinks it will help them communicate with him. At the end of the scene she breaks down and starts hugging Cole who has been having a tantrum the entire time and screams “I want to talk to my son”.
This scene broke my heart as a teenager…without a thought in the world of being a parent. Now that I am a parent, in particular to a son I can’t communicate with, this scene just hits the nail on the head. I included the segment below, but the actual argument I’m referring to doesn’t start until 45 secs into the clip.
In case you are wondering, yes, I know that Gavin isn’t deaf. However, he is non-verbal. It breaks my heart when I can’t figure out what he needs or wants. This scene is very real and happens daily in our house; just ask the students in the building because I’m sure they hear him! Gavin pulls us into the kitchen, his bedroom, our living room, the room doesn’t really matter, and he tries to tell us what he wants. He will point at different spots around the room and will shriek loudly until we figure out what he is really asking for from us. Through his early intervention program and Building Blocks program they have taught him a few signs, but they aren’t trained in ASL so it only gets him so far. Right now Gavin knows the sign for help, more, all done, up, and me. Pretty limited when trying to tell someone what he wants.
I keep thinking about signing up for an ASL class for me and him. His receptive language has improved so much that I think he could catch on rather quickly to the signing. I honestly think it would be great for him if he had some way to utilize his own version of expressive language. I remain hopeful every day that Gavin will speak, but the reality is right now at 27 months old he is still non-verbal. And at the end of the day…I want to talk to my son…and I will do whatever I have to do to make that possible!