We all worked constantly with Justin trying to catch his vocabulary up to where we thought it should be. While waiting for a train one day Larry told the kids to watch the rails really close because an airplane was coming. The older kids all just smiled and looked at Justin. He looked puzzled. He knew airplanes should be in the sky. When the train was right in front of us we all started laughing and saying, “Look at the big airplane,” or “Wow it’s a noisy airplane.” Justin kept the puzzled look for a minute. When he realized we were all playing he said very quietly, “Train.” He had a cute little grin on his face like he’d caught the joke. That was one of the first smiles we got from Justin.
Halfway up our staircase the stairs took a turn. Right at the turn, in the middle of the wall, I hung a picture of each of our four kids taken close to their first birthday. The four pictures were lined up Heidi, Robin, Adam, and Justin. Each time I went up or came down the stairs with Justin I would stop at the row of pictures. I’d point to each one and say the name out loud.
After many trips during one stop I pointed at each picture and said the child’s name. I said the names slowly and waited. After a couple seconds went by I pointed at the next picture and waited without saying the name. I looked at Justin. He gave me a puzzled look again. I waited again. Justin pointed at the picture and softly said, “Heidi.”
We moved to the next picture and then the next. When we got to his picture he refused to call out a name. This went on for a couple weeks. I tried something new. I put a handkerchief over one of the photos. When we went up the stairs the next time I stopped with Justin and pointed at each photo. I didn’t say the name of who was in the photo. I just waited. After a few seconds went by Justin called out the Adam to match his photo. Next he called out Heidi to match her photo and then Robins. Justin’s picture is the one I had covered. He gently pulled the handkerchief off, and while giggling out loud, he screamed, “Justie!”
Justin had found his voice. He found it again when the kids got home from school. He took Adam, Robin, and Heidi one by one to the staircase. He pointed out the pictures and waited for them to say the names. When he got to his own picture he grinned and proudly said, “Justie.”
When Larry came in from work the kids all teased Justin to show daddy what he could do. Justin was more than proud as he wrapped his little hand around Larry’s and stepped up the stairs.After that monumental day Justin was known as Justie most of the time. He knew he belonged on that wall with the other kids. More than that; he knew he belonged in our home.