Communication, what does that mean to you? Talking, well of course. But how many of us talk about nothing? Is that wasted communication?
I remember when Buddy first got diagnosed. All of the professionals, told us “Don’t waste words… please, thank you, excuse me…these are all wasted words”. I was instructed to speak to Buddy in short, direct sentences. “Use your fork.” “Give me the crayon.” According to those that went to school to be autism experts, this was the only way to communicate with my non-verbal son.
But the mother in me never listened to this suggestion. My son, not only hears these words, but I know that he understands them.
How do I know? When Buddy wants something (very badly) he will kiss my cheek. If we are visiting somewhere and he is ready to go home, he will hand me my purse and kiss my cheek. If he wants his TV turned on, he will hand me his remote (or every remote in the house, if I ignore his initial request) and kiss my cheek. This is his way of saying “Please, Mom” We both understand the importance of that “wasted” word.
So how does my non-verbal son communicate? I am sure you have seen the picture cards…they look like stick figure art…(think road signs, or restroom signs), or actual photos of objects, well, Buddy doesn’t use them with me. Sign language?…Buddy can sign “More” but that’s about all he picked up.
So, okay, how do we communicate with each other?
Ha, ha…very well. Buddy understands most of what I say. Even if he pretends that he doesn’t.
For example, when we leave the house in the mornings, I give him instructions. It’s usually something like “We need to turn off the lights, and then I need, Mommy’s purse, Mommy’s keys, Mommy’s lunch and Mommy’s bag.” As he completes one of the instructions, I repeat the request, without the part that he fulfilled. Very rarely, do I need to point to any of these.
Okay, so HE understands ME, but how does HE communicate his wants/needs TO ME?
He is very creative and smart. As I said, if he wants to leave, he hands me my purse.
If he wants his TV on, he hands me his remote.
If he hands me the “cookie dipping cup”, I know he wants milk to dip his cookies.
If he hands me the nail clippers, and sticks his finger in my face, I know he has a torn nail.
If he removes his shirt (immediately after I put it on him) and tosses it in the coat closet and slams the door…I know he doesn’t want to wear that shirt…and may never wear it again.
If he pulls me to the sink and turns on the water, he wants me to help him wash his hands.
If he hands me a cereal bowl, box of cereal and milk…yup, he wants cereal.
If he hands me a bowl, caramel syrup, and directs me to the freezer…Bud E. Boy, gets a bowl of ice cream with caramel topping.
If we are in the car and he pushes my shoulder, he wants the song/station changed. BUT if he gently taps that same shoulder…he wants the volume turned up. (how cleaver is that?!)
If he hands me a ripped CD/DVD picture and the tape…yup, you guessed it…he wants me to tape it back together.
Now, keep in mind, it has taken several years for us to learn this. But it’s quite ingenious of Buddy, to figure out his side of the conversation.
Many times, he has tried to get me to understand, only for me to say “Buddy, I’m sorry, I don’t understand, you have to show me.” And generally, that results in him getting a little frustrated, but then he discovers another way to get me to comprehend his thoughts.
I remember several years ago, I had a horrible case of laryngitis. I spent 3 days writing everything down. It was very frustrating to not be able to speak, and if I didn’t write things down, oftentimes, the other person, had no clue what I was trying to get across to them.
So I think it’s utterly amazing, that Buddy has figured out how to communicate with me.
Oh, I forgot one, my all time favorite…when Buddy pulls me to him, guides my arms around his back, and hugs me tight (not letting me go)…it means “I love you Mom, you’re my favorite!” Most parents hear “I love you”…but I FEEL it!
There are NO wasted words!