your child can hear you (Autism/special needs)

your child can hear you
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.
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hardly typical (reposted from Moved by Mercy)

I found this beautiful post on Moved by MercyI have previously written about our daughter, Payton, and how, despite her setbacks, she has always been amazing with her brother. As I read this post I couldn’t stop thinking about her. Dave’s words describe so much of who she is. She has been dealt a blow in life, but her ability to intuitively assist her brother in many aspects and the compassion she shows is just what the author of this post says, she’s hardly typical.

The following is reposted with permission from Moved by Mercy.

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Hardly Typical
by Dave Muirhead

I just learned that today, April 10th, is National Sibling day, a day set apart to celebrate brothers and sisters. The siblings of special needs kids are often referred to as “typical” siblings. Their lives are anything but typical and they, themselves, are anything but typical.

The truth is that typical siblings play a role in families with disabled children that sometimes looks more like a parent than a sibling. They change pull-up’s, help with dressing and feeding, protect against all manner of dangers, serve as Mom’s and Dad’s lookout, and more. Sure, they do those things because its helpful to Mom and Dad, but they also do it out of love for their sibling with special needs.

Typical siblings live in a world that seemingly has a gravitational pull towards their sibling with special needs. They sometimes feel forgotten and often have to settle for Mom and Dad “left-over’s”. Their activities are often constrained by the availability and cost of special needs child care. It’s not an easy life in a lot of ways.

My experience from meeting a number of typical siblings of special needs kids is that, despite all of those challenges – or perhaps because of them – these children are unusually compassionate, patient, accepting and forgiving of others, and kind-hearted.

Maybe the struggles and heartaches they’ve experienced from an early age forestalls the tendency toward self-focus, indifference and hardness of heart.

This is my favorite “typical” sibling, my daughter Shelby, now age 12. What a sweet heart!

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Shelby is the typically-developing sibling of her 7-year old special needs brother Jack whom we often call “Jack Jack” for his seemingly “super” ability to be creating catastrophes in two places at once (ever see Jack Jack Attack?)

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She endures looking at big machines…on TV…in person…for hours…

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From a very young age, Shelby has been one of Jack’s biggest protectors, advocates and comforters.

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Shelby loves the Lord and is a real prayer warrior. I’m always blown away when I get to listen in on her conversations with Jesus.

The other evening, Shelby handed me a short essay she wrote about what its like to be the sibling of a child with disabilities. Some of it was hard to read, to be honest.

The essay ended in “typically” Shelby fashion, though. She wrote that she has decided to start a sibling support group as part of the special needs ministry that my wife and I are starting at our church. She wrote that she would get other “typical” siblings together to pray for one another, talk about their struggles, enjoy one another’s fellowship and go do fun activities.

Hardly typical, but I wasn’t surprised. That’s just Shelby.

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Do you have a neurotypical child that has amazed you? Do you feel they are special because of what they’ve gone through having a special needs sibling?

*My thanks to Dave and his willingness to share this post with lovin’ adoption’.

You can find out more about Dave’s ministry and see more of his writing at Moved by Mercy.