He said it! HE SAID IT!
Okay. Yes, it was prompted. But everything he can do has started off with prompting, so I will consider this to be wonderful and miraculous.
This was a case of making lemonade out of lemons. It started when he started saying "I love you Duckett" about a week ago. Duckett was his beloved speech therapist - his first one from the public schools, and who is still the object of his adoration even though he's seen her once in three years. The one visit we had with her - just over a year ago - was memorable because of his reaction to seeing her. He walked into her office, saw her, shrieked with joy and then turned his back, covered his eyes and hid - almost as if to say "This is way too good, I can't stand it!", grinning and giggling the whole time. We took several pictures that day and they are saved on my computer's desktop so they are easily accessible. He asks to see them just about every night, and he nearly has the same reaction each time: it's too good! I must turn away and jump and hide! That's the background.
So about a week ago, he started saying "I love you, Duckett". Completely unprompted. My heart was bursting: with pride & excitement that he could put his feelings into words- unprompted, and breaking that those words weren't for me first. I resolved to remain celebratory about it, and rejoice that he, once again, has proven that the stereotype of individuals with autism not making emotional connections with others is not true - at least for him. He loves and he can say that he does. And that is huge.
I could have felt sorry for myself - and I did for a few moments. But I decided to grab the opportunity, and after a few days said to him: "I love you, T" in my clear, vocal prompting voice. And he said "I love you, Mommy" back to me.
We tested it on Daddy next. Rob: "I love you, T." And T replied: "I love you, Daddy."
8 years, 10 months. We'll take it!!!