The average 2-year-old can speak more than 100 words. By 3, that number jumps to anywhere from 200 to 1,000. Michael Swaner never hit those milestones. In 32 years he has never spoken a word.
As an infant, Michael was diagnosed with severe low-functioning autism, a neurological disorder that impedes brain development. More than 1 million people in the United States are affected by autism, though only a small percentage of those cases are as severe as Michael’s.
“If there’s one thing you don’t get enough of with autism, it’s affection,” said Michael’s mother Ruth Swaner, USU graduate and author of the book “Words Born of Silence.”
The book, Swaner’s third, is about her personal journey in dealing with the anger, denial, acceptance and what she likes to call “over-dedication” of autism.
“One day my oldest son came up to me and said ‘We’re tired of helping you take care of Michael,’” she said. This was a turning point. She realized that she was so caught up in Michael’s needs that she wasn’t meeting the needs of her family or herself.