I recently watched a video on Autism, and in that video moms are shown with their children, meltdowns are taking place, some kids are hitting their parents, you hear the babbling of nonverbal children (all trying to make their voice heard), kids that are too big to be carried clinging to mom, vying for her attention.
It’s real, and sometimes it’s the exact life I live. However, many of the moms in that video don’t realize their children can hear what they’re saying about them, nor do I feel they see the qualities their children possess. I don’t feel they’re trying to hear wheat their child is saying when they make a noise, hit them, or fall on the floor in a meltdown.
For this post I will focus on the first point. Our children hear what we say. Even when it looks impossible, like our child doesn’t understand the world around them, they CAN hear us.
I was surprised by what the mothers in the video were saying in front of their kids. At the same time, some of it sounded familiar because I’ve been there, saying very similar things. I still find myself making comments that I shouldn’t.
The moms in the video were saying:
- This is so exhausting. (Referring to taking care of the child.)
- She wants all of my attention.
- He’s so difficult.
- She’s like a baby.
- He can’t be left alone for a minute.
My son, Jeremiah, is nonverbal and it took me a while (too long) to come to the realization that my son understood far more than what I thought he did. When I saw Jeremiah smiling in response to us talking about what he’d done, I started to recognize what he understood. Then he began to laugh at funny things he was doing, or funny things we said and it continued from there, me realizing what this kiddo understood, and how much I didn’t. Some of you are shaking your heads, saying, “Duh.”
When your child doesn’t obey simple (or so they seem to us) requests, it can lead you to believe they don’t understand anything you’re saying,
and that just isn’t true.
We also need to treat those with special needs with respect. Maybe you would say those things about a typically functioning child, but many wouldn’t. Stress makes us do things we normally wouldn’t.
It’s also really important to recognize that meltdowns are a child’s way of communicating, so are most other behaviors. And one woman, when describing her hand movements (stimming), said it was the song of her heart. She was communicating through her hands. When individuals are nonverbal everything is tucked inside, maybe it sounds obvious now, but I feel the fact is easily forgotten.
Let’s remember to be careful how we talk to, and about our child when they can hear us. Here’s another good post to help remind us how we should treat our kids, and how we should expect others to treat them: Would You Accept This Behavior Toward a Non-Autistic Child?
I also highly recommend everyone read the book, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. It gives us a glimpse into the life of someone who is nonverbal, but has much to say. It’s an easy and quick read, but so much can be gained from reading about Melody’s world.