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Thursday, 01 December 2011 05:56

Can You Hear Me Now?

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Jack is awake right now. I can hear him thumping against the wall, dropping toys, sing-songing. I've checked on him several times. He has water, a warm room, lots of blankets and pillows, flannel sheets. He's set. He sounds happy, and he smiled when I sat on his bed with him for a bit.

But I don't know what's going on in his head. Maybe he wants to tell me something about his day. Maybe he has a tag that is bothering him. Maybe he had a bad dream last night and he's a little worried about putting his mind to rest tonight. He'll settle down in a bit, but I won't know what calmed him. I won't know tomorrow how to make it easier aside from gathering the right gear and creating the best environment.

This is the biggest challenge I face as his mom; I cannot ever know for sure what he is saying.

Words slip out here and there. We've heard full sentences (and swear words). He has called a few times to me "Momma" when he was upset and in tears. But most of his communication isn't verbal, isn't "conventional." Most of the way he communicates is through behavior, or very subtle gestures, and not everyone speaks this language.

Some people are too impatient to wait for an answer that he might give (by choosing between two or three offerings). Others don't know what to look for, like his squinty eye that winks to say "Yes." Sometimes his touch is so light, traced across your arm as he walks by, that it would be hard for anyone to know that he was saying "Hello!" And sadly there are some people who don't think he has anything to say at all.

And they're wrong, because every move he makes is a sentence, and his hoppity-skip jumps are a paragraph. If we listen, by watching his behavior, he tells us so many things, like when he's done hanging around other people and he goes to the stairs, tapping on the gate. Or he touches your hand, then walks across the room to touch the door knob. Or he drops to the ground twenty times on the way to somewhere he doesn't want to go.

He's got a lot to say, whether we pay attention or not, and how carefully we pay attention to him will shape who he is and who he will grow up to be.

I hope he knows I'm listening.

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  • Comment Link longchamp Saturday, 17 December 2011 09:17 posted by longchamp

    Good informative post. I will visit your site often to keep updated.

  • Comment Link Jennifer B Myers Wednesday, 07 December 2011 04:56 posted by Jennifer B Myers

    Thank you Samantha. It's taken me 11 years, and I'm still not fluent :)

  • Comment Link Samantha Keller Thursday, 01 December 2011 20:43 posted by Samantha Keller

    Jenny, this is so beautiful. I love how he speaks volumes without a word and your mothers eye that hears the nuances.
    Thank you for this insight into your world.

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Dandelion is a free quarterly magazine that serves as a resource for Bay Area and Sacramento families of children with special needs: autism and Asperger’s, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, those who are blind, deaf, in wheelchairs, learning disorders, sensory issues and every special need in between. Dandelion’s mission is to create and empower a community of local families through a variety of media by providing a database of resources, trusted and thought-provoking editorial content, an up-to-date calendar of special needs-specific events, noteworthy news, as well as contributions to the community.