“Mom, I saw Ashley in gym today!”

Wil did not share this fact after school. Nor at the dinner table.

Wil was lying on the couch, shortly before bedtime, watching a Netflix show with Elizabeth and me. He popped up in the middle of a scene— that had nothing to do with gym class, or long-time friends — and made his declaration.

When Wil was younger — and his friends, cousins and sisters were younger — the main goal was play. Though some kids ran and talked faster than Wil, the running and talking didn’t last long. They were all about the play, and that’s what they did.

But now, the play has transitioned to conversations. And these conversations move fast and take lots of tangents. And Wil, though he speaks quite well, simply can’t keep pace with most teenagers and adults when it comes to conversation. Thus activities in gym, and seeing long-time friends like Ashley, are highlights of Wil’s day.

I’ve recently noticed Wil’s increasing silence at large gatherings such as weddings and holiday dinners. Ironically, Wil’s conversational skills have increased, and yet, he still cannot keep up with the pace of group conversation. He joins in where he can; and for Wil, that is in laughter. Unless Wil is addressed or given the space to talk, he sits quietly, staring at his plate, until laughter spontaneously and contagiously catches everyone at the table, and he heartily joins in.

Fortunately most large events come with dancing and games, and this is where Wil knows exactly how to make space for himself. At my nephew’s wedding, he literally did just that. Wil created his own space on the dance floor, got down with his own moves, and his energy was so contagious that no other dancer could resist joining him. He was again at play, everyone around him was about the play, and that’s exactly what they did.

When space isn’t created for Wil, and he is not able to create space for himself, it is when the night grows quiet that he thinks on his day and processes events. It is his time to filter through images without all the tangents and interruptions. And though some of his declarations may seem out of the blue to us, he is creating that space for himself. And as his mom, I can’t help but cheer when he decides to take the floor!

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