People assume the only way we can communicate is by talking to one another, What do
you do if this is simply not possible?
When my daughter was born, she was born with severe complex needs. From an early age she was not hitting developmental milestones, we thought it was due to the medical attention she required at birth, we were told it was global delay and she would likely catch up. Later in life Ashleigh was diagnosed with Angelman syndrome a neurological condition effecting the 15th chromosome. Meaning the hope of Ashleigh ever talking was since dismissed.
Today on this Nonverbal and non-communication awareness day, I wanted to highlight some of the difficulties I face as a mother and also the difficulties that my daughter faces on a daily basis.
Ashleigh gets extremely frustrated when she cannot communicate her wants and needs, to which can lead to self-harm when needs are not met. Of course, every effort to try and GUESS what she requires is made but sadly it cannot always be done.
If Ashleigh is having a day where she isn’t well and I needed to take her to the doctors, they will always try and ask questions such as: has she complained of a headache? Does her tummy hurt? Any pain anywhere mom? Well of course I cannot answer these questions because I simply do not know. She is unable to tell me, so it can be very difficult to get to the bottom of why she is not feeling well. I can only go by Ashleigh’s body language when it comes to how she is feeling, is today a good day or a bad day? Why is she feeling this way? Has there been any situations that have occurred at home or at school has made her feel emotional, good or bad? As a parent, our main aim is to try to protect our children and keep them as safe as we can. As Ashleigh and I are not able to openly communicate, I cannot simply ask her how I can make her feel better as she cannot tell me, it’s just a guessing game.
People try to communicate verbally with Ashleigh nearly everywhere we go, she has that warming welcoming face but when she does not say anything back, we get comments like ‘Oh not in the mood to talk today, or not talking to me I’m walking away so I don’t upset her more.’
I challenge you, next time somebody speaks to you just look at them and say nothing, watch how their body language and attitude changes towards you. What comes so naturally for one, does not for another. It is so import we raise awareness around being nonverbal.
I was once a believer that to communicate with someone we needed the ability to talk to them, Sure, it makes things a hell of a lot simpler BUT it doesn’t stop us from communicating, over the years it has been made easier to communicate in ways such as PEC (picture exchange communication), Makaton and BSL (British sign language). But not every mind has the ability and understanding to use these aids.
As a mother to a nonverbal child, I ask you to be mindful next time you speak to someone and not get the response you would normally expect.