This post is yet another in a long line of posts about the way DC communicates or is not able to communicate. Let me first say, in case you are new here; although he was non-verbal until he was seven years old – DC is now what you would call verbal.
Since is is the last day of Autism Awareness Month, I decided we could talk about communication one. more. time.
Verbal does not always equal communication.
He can recite lines from movies. He can usually tell me what he wants. He cannot always tell me when there is something wrong or if something has happened. Even when he has the words, he cannot always use them to communicate what he is trying to tell me or anyone else.
There are times when he will still use his sign language to help in his communication when something is important enough to him. In most cases if I do not get what he is trying to tell me right away, he gives up and just says “Nothing wrong”. Once we get to “Nothing Wrong” the conversation and whatever he was trying to tell me is lost.
As I have written before; one of the hardest things for DC to convey to me is when he is not feeling well or if something hurts.
Over and above the fact that he DOES NOT want to go to the doctor or “rest” at home, he does not often have the words to tell me when he does not feel well. Or he DOES have the words, but cannot put them together or figure out how to use them in certain situations.
This is an example of a conversation we had just the other day…
DC came running into the room stimming wildly and it was apparent that he was upset about something.
I asked him what was wrong.
DC: “My heart is beating, beating, beating”
Me: Does your chest hurt?
DC: “No! My heart is beating – boom boom”
I do understand after all of these years that his “Heart Beating” means that he is upset about something or something scared him. It does not have anything to do with his heart but I always ask (just in case) if his chest hurts.
Me: Can you tell me what happened?
DC: (pointing to his mouth) Sink!
I went into the kitchen and he pointed to the sink – which was relatively clean.
Me: What happened?
DC: (annoyed that I did not understand) MOM’S OFFICE!!!!
Now, knowing DC as I do, I had to search my brain and think of something that happened to him at some point over the years when he was at work with me.
Fortunately, I remembered.
He was in Middle-School. MIDDLE SCHOOL!
When he was younger, he would “tell” everyone that he was sick; actually he would just sign “sick” with no other details. Most of the time he was not sick at all, but he knew the school nurse had jellybeans in her office so that is where he wanted to be! Then he discovered when he was finished with the jellybeans that they would call Mom to pick him up. Most of the time, knowing that he really wasn’t sick, I would pick him up and bring him to work with me – which he loves, so I wasn’t really winning any battles there, but I had to work. (We’ll forget about the ONE time, he threw up all over my office, the ONE time he really was sick and no one believed him. I guess he showed us!) ~ From: Look in the Mirror and Spit Cookies, September 2013
Me: Did you throw up in the sink?
Obviously, not very much and he must have run the water before coming to get me. He has been jumping and dancing around the kitchen so I suspect that all of that activity was the cause of the situation as he did not seem sick otherwise.
Since the “Spitting Cookies” incident (linked above and here) he has learned and does know the word. He has used it before, but just could not figure out how to use it to tell me what was wrong.
The plus side of it all is that he tried to tell me and did not give up (although one would have to be me in order to figure it out). He does that sort of thing often. He brings up an example of something that happened at an earlier time to try to get his point across. This often works with me, but everyone else that he deals with in his day to day life do not have all of this information stockpiled in their memory and often do know know what is important enough for him to remember. What is important to him is not always what others would even give a second thought to.
Verbal and Communication?
Two very different things.
You are so good at putting the pieces together! I know this comes with practice and knowing your own child. My own child has more words but sometimes understand the meaning under the words is still a bit of a struggle. Thank you for reminding me to look deeper.
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Thank you – yes, he’s 27 so I have had a lot of practice and I still don’t always get to the answer but we keep trying.