Thursday, April 11, 2019

Talking Does Not Equal Communicating

Have you ever walked away from someone and wondered what just happened? You think you've just had a conversation with the person but when you think back, nothing really got communicated.  Communication implies understanding. 

When B was little and I was concerned about autism, I had asked our family doctor.  I was promptly dismissed and told "He's too verbal to be autistic".  At this time, B wasn't using many words but he was making a lot of noise.  He wasn't easily understood verbally.  But he could communicate.  He communicated with his sippy cups.  When they were empty I got a sippy to the head.  I knew exactly what he was trying to say.

B & Einstein
not related to this post but two cool dudes
These days, B's still pretty verbal.  He's also not always communicative.  He can ask for what he wants now and that's HUGE.  I can't tell you how important this is. For years I carried a huge backpack of toys so I could guess which one he wanted.  It also contained toys for other kids so they wouldn't touch the ones he had or the others that were special to him. He might not have wanted Mr. Potato Head right that minute but he didn't want you to have it either.  Here's some matchbox cars he doesn't care about.

Sometimes B is scripting and I have no idea what he's talking about.  Scripting means that he's repeating something he's heard on a video.  I haven't seen all the videos he has so I'm often lost.  In kindergarten and first grade he'd script in the appropriate context.  He would repeat things he'd heard and it would be appropriate for that moment.  It was fascinating. 

The most important times that he can't communicate is when he's overwhelmed.  Asking him questions to help him understand what's happening often leads to more agitation.  Often, we try to get him safe and leave him alone.  Not physically alone but we don't talk to him.  We don't offer him choices.  We stay silence.  Give him space to work through whatever's happening.  Usually, he can't discuss what happened right after the incident is over.  Most of the time, we talk about what happened at bed time.  That way, he's had time to sort through everything.  He's a truth teller so I don't worry about him lying to me.  On the rare incidences that he does lie, he tells on himself quickly. 

We can usually tell when B is stressed but we don't often know what's stressing him.  We can guess and we try to talk him through those situations.  We try to honor his requests during these times.  For example, he's been asking for us to pray for him to have a good night's sleep every night for about a week.  We pray at night but this is a specific request that makes me wonder.  So, I ask him questions and try to be more observant. 

B may not communicate traditionally but if you're observant and patient you can usually figure him out. 

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