Lesson #2: Listen with your eyes !
My son was not verbal until he was about four or five, and then at 6.5 he became conversational. This didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen without intervention. Many wonderful therapists helped us reach this milestone. It took prayer, hard work, ABA (both Discrete Trial and Naturalistic Training), financial sacrifice, time, and patience, but we crossed the sea of silence.
Before he had expressive language, my son created his own unique communication system. He had developed signs for just about everything, and I watched him and learned to understand what he wanted by observing his signs. When he spread the fingers of his right hand and shook the hand, he wanted something. When he put the fingers together and patted the air, he was in distress. As I reflect, it was amazing. I accepted his symbol system, and thought nothing of it, but I always combined his symbol use with my words and questions.
I was trying to understand him and let him know that I was there. His system was not my system of communication, but it was a way for us to meet in the middle. I was told by friends of the family that I should “make him talk,” rather than respond to his hand movements, and I politely accepted their advice and continued to watch and respond to his symbols. I believed I had to listen with my eyes, until he could talk.
What is your child telling you? Are you “tuning in” Your child may not use words, but body language, symbol systems, or eye movements. These are all good places to “meet in the middle” while you work on spoken language.
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