Forced smile. Remind myself they are just being kind.
That's usually my standard response.
Sometimes it's misinterpreted -- fair enough really. Sometimes I'm clearer and say, "He can't talk." It can be an instant conversation stopper. Strangers' eyes glaze over. Semi sympathetic smiles are offered. I pay for our shopping and make a sharp exit.
Having a nonverbal 4-year-old -- and our non-verbal is the completely nonverbal kind -- is tough. As he gets older, Brody makes a lot more noises and a few sounds. We have "mum." The past year has brought us some wonderful Makaton signing -- we weave and sign "more" (funnily enough food was the motivator for that one), "duck," "bird," "yes" (not always in context) and "please/thank you" (when it suits him, naturally). We're beyond grateful for these signs, but the lack of communication, understanding and speech can be hard on the heart. Not to mention frustrating for everyone. Silence is not always golden. I should add we high five and fist pump, which is awesome.
Being nonverbal isn't like "The Little Mermaid." There isn't always some magical solution. Take away your child's verbal voice and you can imagine how much more complicated life gets. You long for things many parents take for granted. I love you's, birthday and Christmas lists, endless questions and conversations about favorite things.