Many people assume communication means speech but there is a lot more to communication than verbal expression. There are also physical gestures, facial expressions and behaviour which have become important ways for me to understand what my autistic children are communicating.
Whilst both of my children can talk, talking can become so difficult for them that they sometimes loose the ability to verbalise. This happens quite often as a result of stress, anxiety or sensory overload. We don’t force them to talk when they are like this but wait for them to find their voice again. This can take a while so in the meantime we have to communicate with them through other means.
My son will often resort to using his own form of sign language and miming to express what he wants to say to us. For example if he is hungry he will rub his tummy or if he wants to have a shower he will act it out – it is a bit like charades in our house. At other times he may spell out words with his fingers in the air or write down the odd word. If he is happy to communicate like this then we are happy too and actually we have many funny moments communicating on our son’s terms which he loves.
For my daughter she also has moments of being mute but will regain her ability to talk when she has had a chance to relax. Even then she says talking is hard and will find relief in expressing her feelings in her artwork and sometimes in writing. If she lets me look at her work, it is a very touching way for me to find out about my daughter and how she is feeling. It has helped me to unravel some of her worries which I have then been able to reassure her about or deal with.
As well as these ways of communicating, both my children also communicate their feelings through behaviour. Slamming doors, throwing things, shouting and swearing can indicate anger and frustration and an impending meltdown and signs for me to take action to help calm them down. At the other end of the spectrum are their more subtle behaviours. My son’s chewing of his fingers can be a sign of worry whilst my daughter’s screwed up mouth can indicate embarrassment. These are just some of their many non-verbal signs that my children use to communicate their feelings which I think are as important as verbal expression.
By learning my children’s unique way of communicating, both verbal and non-verbal, I can get to know my children and help them when the need arises. But most importantly by communicating on their terms, I can start to enjoy their unique perspective on the world.
This post is for Special Saturday, an online campaign that aims to raise awareness of children with special needs. Every Saturday a prompt is given to encourage people to write or tweet about something in order to help raise awareness of special needs. If you would like to learn more about Special Saturday then you can do so though the following ways:
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/SpecialSaturday
Twitter – follow @Specialsat and use the hashtag #specialsaturday
The Blog – http://specialsaturday.org/
Wendy at the Savette Gazette – http://www.savette.com/category/special-saturday/
This post is day 26 of the nablopomo challenge where I have to submit a blogpost every day in the month of November.