The last word Watson Dollar spoke before autism erased his ability to do so was “lights.”
The chubby cheeked toddler lay in his father’s arms as anesthesia, administered for an ear-tube surgery, dimmed his consciousness. Head lolling back, body going limp, Watson gazed at the fluorescent lamps above him, uttering the one-syllable noun.
Then he closed his eyes and never spoke again. That was 20 years ago.
In the two months between Halloween and Christmas of 1992, Watson had lost almost of all of his 150-word vocabulary along with an interest in the world.
His parents initially failed to notice the change, chalking up the subtle signs to stubbornness or fatigue or the ever-changing nature of a developing child.
By New Year’s, though, the difference was both inescapable and worrisome.