J recently celebrated his sixth birthday. He seemed more aware this year that it was his day and that things were for him. It got me thinking about his thought processes and just how well I understand them and if I get it right most of the time.
When your child is non-verbal it can be very difficult and frustrating for both them and you. It is hard to fully understand what they want or need. Often it’s a guessing game of elimination to figure it out and finally give them what they are looking for. We have taken part in many activities, workshops and courses to try to help us to meet J’s communication needs, to try to support his development and to try to understand him and his world a little better. It’s been a long road with many ups and downs and bumps along the way. Being honest, we’re still on the journey and finding out new things as we go.
As his mum I probably understand him most and he often looks to me to interpret his needs and meet them. He is definitely getting better at putting his point across but still has some way to go. It often makes me wonder, how well do I actually know him? Am I interpreting him correctly? I would like to think I know him every bit as well as I know my other two.
I challenged myself to think about what his favourite things are and how I know this. A bit like All Star Mr & Mrs but without all the nice celebrities and funny jokes. What do I know about him?
His favourite colours are green and purple. His favourite TV programmes at the moment are Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom and Horrid Henry. He loves trains, sharks and dinosaurs. At dinner time he is a meat and veg type of boy, though he also loves pasta with tuna or bologneise. The iPad would be his favourite piece of technology and he’s a whizz with You Tube. He adores being outdoors, loves the beach and the park, as well as being a huge fan of swings – he could spend hours on one if he was allowed. Water is a bit of an obsession and he can often be found filling a bucket or paddling pool to swirl and splash the water around. At times he is even overly keen to ‘wash hands’ just to get access to some!
When it comes to things he doesn’t like, the list is almost as long. Mainly he hates high pitched noises and sudden or loud noises (if he hasn’t made them himself!) He’s not keen on rice and doesn’t like spicy foods. When it comes to toys he likes most things, though I have figured out that he’s not very fond of toys or games that require sustained concentration or sitting still for periods of time. He has to be encouraged to share and he doesn’t like people being too close to his toys (in case they steal them).
I think people underestimate him because he’s not able to speak. I know a previous nursery placement didn’t work out for that very reason. I suppose the message behind this post is never to assume people don’t know things just because they aren’t able to say them out loud to you. Look for other ways to communicate with them and be patient. Allow them to show you things in a different way.
J knows all numbers to 20 and many up towards 100 too. He knows every letter of the alphabet and can put them in order by ‘singing’ the song to help him sort them. He knows all of his shapes and colours and can communicate these by pointing them out when I say them or using his PECS book to show the names. He can do so much more than ‘bang a drum with support’! I just wish other people would take the time to see that and give him ways to show just how clever he is and how much he knows.
All children have a need to be successful and showcase their achievements. It’s just that for some we need to do it in alternative way – ‘think outside the box’ and give them that sense of pride and achievement we celebrate so well in children who can tell us what they know. In fact, perhaps we should celebrate it more since it took a good bit more effort to get there!
This post was first featured as: How Well Do I know My Silent Son on Meet Other Mums