I will never stop listening.
By Marisa Leon
After 20 years of serving autistic children, teenagers, and adults, I know one thing for sure: Autism is a mystery that requires us to change.
My journey into the world of autism began as a speech therapist. The expectations I had when I embarked on this professional path didn’t fully line up with my actual experiences with the children. I expected to play the role of a teacher helping the children communicate through spoken language, sign language, or through a communication device. My focus was on pre-linguistic skills and the words of language.
Traditional speech therapy techniques were used, but something extraordinary was happening that I couldn’t explain as a clinical SLP. Communication and connection were established with greater ease and far more quickly than anticipated. Many of the kids began talking and some didn’t, but there was a kind of communication and interaction happening that went beyond words.
The children showed and communicated joy; they made eye contact with me frequently; they played, they initiated, they engaged in structured and unstructured therapy activities; they gave me so many hugs! They were behaving in ways that were not fully aligned to what I was taught about autistic behavior.
Parents often told me:
“He’s never played like that before.”
“She has never sat that close to anyone.”
“I can’t believe he’s saying so many new words.”
“She is so calm!”
“I can understand him now.”
My very first hypothesis, twenty years ago, was this: The children are born with an innate understanding that verbal communication isn’t necessary. I began searching for answers to my ever-expanding questions about autism. My questions about autism simultaneously coincided with my ever-expanding questions about myself and the reality we live in. I had become a seeker. The next five years proved to be a wholly life-changing awakening process, a deeply personal and intimate revolution.
I sought out information about spirituality, quantum physics, emotions, effects of trauma, authenticity, neuroscience, and the metaphysical. Throughout this five-year integration process, I received many answers to the questions I had about myself and my reality. It was not at all easy or graceful. It was painful, challenging, and chaotic. I often describe it as a “traumatic awakening.” I will share more about that in the future.
All the while, I’m continuing to have wonderful and joyful speech therapy sessions with children on and off the spectrum, still without any answers to my questions about autism. I reached out to a trusted professor from my undergraduate years, I took many workshops, read books, continued asking questions of my colleagues, and compared my experiences with theirs. The complete mystery about what was happening between the children and me remained. There were no explanations in sight.
Then one night, I was watching yet another documentary about quantum physics. I was fascinated by the subject, and still am. I was inspired to see if one of my favorite quantum physicists had a Facebook page. Indeed, he did, and that’s when I saw a picture of a woman next to the words “former pediatric speech-language pathologist.” I wondered, “What in the world is a SLP doing on a quantum physicist’s Facebook page?!” I clicked the link to Suzy Miller’s Awesomism website and that was that. I knew immediately I was going to sign up for her Awesomism Practitioner Process.
The answers to my questions about autism began flooding in. I realized that I was communicating with the children on a soul level, on a spiritual level, on an energetic level, on a multidimensional level. I understood that my ability to see them as intelligent, empathic, communicative, and playful beings was the key to success in my therapeutic approach.
After speaking with Suzy for the first time, and before my first class with other future Awesomism practitioners, I tested something out in my work as a SLP. I decided, for the first time, to integrate meditation and intention-setting into a therapy session with a three-year-old boy.
I was a home health clinician/supervisor at the time and was in my car waiting for the SLP-Asst to arrive at the home. I had never seen the child before and had no idea of what to expect. With eyes closed, I went into a meditative state, and set an intention. I said in my mind, “May the child and family living at 1234 Main St, San Antonio, Texas 78222 be frequency-specific with expressive language, receptive language, speech intelligibility, play skills, coupled space (meaning bringing higher dimensional energy into our physical reality), intelligence, joy, perfect health, great wealth, peace, freedom, laughter, beauty, and love.” I took three deep breaths.
The SLP-Asst arrived and began giving me the run down. She said, “I haven’t been able to do anything with this boy. He runs away, he screams, he hits me, he throws things, he cries. Nothing has worked.” I took another breath and consciously kept my mind and heart open. I responded, “Okay. Let’s see how today goes.”
We entered the home, I introduced myself to the mother, and sat on the couch to supervise the session. The mother went to her room straight away and closed the door. I’m sure speech time was her break time, and I understood that. The session began.
This time, he didn’t run away. He didn’t scream. He started interacting, smiling, and playing. The SLP-Asst had a confused look on her face and her jaw was almost to the floor. She said, “He’s never been like this before. I can’t explain it.” His mother came out from her room after about 10 or 15 minutes and exclaimed, “Why is it so quiet in here?!” She looked at her son with an expression of complete shock and beautiful joy. I remember her face vividly to this very day.
The session continued, and this extraordinary boy began to initiate play, imitate the SLP-Asst, and even tried to say a few sounds and words. I couldn’t believe it. I stayed silent on the couch thinking, “Did it actually work?? Is this really happening right now? Am I seeing this?” I felt like a contained explosion of hope and joy as sat quietly still the whole time.
The session came to an end, then something happened that took me over the edge into outright bliss and awe. This phenomenal little boy looked right into my eyes and slowly bowed his head in a remarkably confirming nod. I felt tingles from his confirmation going down my spine. I felt my heart and mind expanding into new potentials and possibilities in that very moment. After that experience, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was going to continue on this path of integrating my meditative and spiritual practice into my work as a SLP. There was absolutely no turning back.
My experience with this boy occurred over seven years ago. I have collected a multitude of awe-inspiring stories since then and will definitely be sharing them as time moves forward.
The credit for my experiences belongs to the children. They teach me how to communicate with them. They all demonstrate the power of acceptance, openness, and love. They guide me to look within myself and to align with my own feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. I am still awakening, learning, and expanding. Their significantly powerful teachings and demonstrations have not ceased to be a constant in my work and life.
I will never stop listening.
Marisa Leon is a speech-language pathologist and founder of Autism Heals, a company dedicated to creating a new paradigm in the world of autism and communication. She integrates 20 years of experience as a clinician with the essential aspects of multidimensionality. The children have taught her that emotion, perception, awareness, spirituality, acceptance, and love are all key elements of communication. There is an alternative and freeing approach to communication. Autism Heals is a new option.
Online sessions are offered for anyone wanting to communicate on a deeper and expanded level. In-home sessions and advocacy services are offered to families of autism in the Los Angeles area. Please send an email to email@example.com to schedule a free consultation and to receive more information.