My almost 13 year old daughter may be non-verbal but she has plenty to say.
People (young or old) with little or no speech have the same communication needs as what the rest of us have. Parents and society just need to learn to adapt the way in which they listen.
Let me give you a few ideas of what I mean – In general my daughter is a happy child. She spends her days giggling and she rarely has a meltdown or tantrum. So when her mood does change she is clearly communicating with me:
- Biting her shirt indicates a frustration – so whatever I am doing at that time is frustrating her and she is “telling” me that she does not like it.
- If I buy something new for her to wear and she immediately takes it off or starts biting it then she is “telling” me that she does not want it.
- If I ignore her early cues of frustration or dislike foot stomping will be added to the mix. Then I know she is very serious about not liking something.
- When she picks something up and throws it out the door or window she is telling me that she does not want it in her space and I need to respect her for this. New duvet covers, décor items or curtains can be very challenging indeed. But she has a say in the way her room looks! I mean she is a teenager after all.
- A gift may end up behind the couch or in a drawer and I know that it could offend the person that has given it to her but all she is doing is telling us what she does or does not like or want. We all have our own styles and preferences and she is no different.
- A tantrum indicates stress. It can be set off by a wide variety of situations and just like any child it is often brought on by not getting her way. The difference is that she has lived in silence for almost 13 years and people expect her to conform to their rules and their ideas in life without explanation. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have people constantly tell me NO and then offer no explanation or alternative. I can’t imagine not being able to tell somebody that I need privacy or alone time. Imagine just for a second how frustrated you would be if nobody paid any attention to you just because you where not talking to them.
- Tears mean fear. Because my daughter has a very high pain threshold she rarely cries about pain. Fear is however a huge trigger for tears.
- Being difficult when I am trying to have a serious conversation with her father. Well I know for a fact she hates “shop-talk” at home and she particularly hates it when mommy or daddy is angry about something that happened at work. Her pulling us around or wanting us to come to her room is merely her way of communicative her desire to stop us from talking shop.
- Putting mommy on a chair and coming to stand by me so I can give her a hug is love time. It is her way of telling me she loves me. She will put my arms around her body and her face up against mine.
I can carry on – on non-verbal communication methods but I am sure you get what I am trying to say.
When a child’s is behaving in a certain way trust that they are communication with you! Not all behaviour is related to being naughty. It is your responsibility as a parent to know what your child does and when they do it. Knowing your child is the key to understanding what they are saying to you and if you pay close attention you will know what they like, dislike, want and even when they are unwell or scared. After 13 years of listening to my child I rarely have a gift end up behind a couch or a shirt taking off or bitten!
Amazing K is a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. We are a private autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 years. Our learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. We offer Individualized Education Programs involved, ABA, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum. Read more about this Johannesburg Autism school here.