Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘sign language

No words necessary

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How Pudding says shh

I’ve been reading lots of articles and posts lately about labels, and the conflict that can arise from using the wrong one.  For instance: does a person have autism, or are they autistic, as the author of this blog prefers?  As a former carer and current spectrummy mummy, I’ve always preferred to use the ‘person-first’ approach, but in the case of autism, or even Autism, if you prefer, it doesn’t personally bother me.  It is certainly an interesting debate, and sometimes the words themselves are less important than the intent behind those using them, and the reaction of those receiving them.  I’ve even written posts myself about my reactions to certain phrases, such as “short bus” or “good enough mother“, where my interpretation of the words doesn’t follow the usual pattern.  So words can be extremely powerful, but so can other kinds of communication.

Non-verbal communication is a challenge for people with autism spectrum disorders.  When you consider how much we communicate through our bodies, our clothes, our posture, our gestures, and (sigh!) eye gaze, it is a wonder we need to use words at all.  We do, of course, or I wouldn’t waste my breath encouraging my kids to ‘use their words’ at their every frustration.

At the advice of Pudding’s speech therapist, I recently bought a DVD teaching young kids about sign language to use with Cubby.  Every word they use he already knows, but he is nonetheless enthralled, and attempts the signs, and also has started gesturing along with songs such as ‘wheels on the bus’ that use finger plays or actions.  And because her school is out for summer, Pudding has been involved too.  Something pretty amazing is happening- she is paying attention.  Not just to the DVD, or music, but paying attention to what I’m doing with my body and trying to figure out what it means.  I’ve indulged in times with her when I’m completely silent, and she has to figure out my meaning without words.*  Instead of getting angry, which I was certain would be the case, she enjoys it.  And there’s more.  Her language has had a little boost.  Her eye gaze has improved.  But more importantly, her interactions have increased too, not just with me, but Daddy, her therapists, and most significantly of all: her brother.

I’m almost afraid to write of progress.  Pudding’s development is like climbing a pole, such hard work to move up, and so easy to slide back down again.  Also, I broke the sage advice of Dr. P of only trying one new therapy or intervention at a time, so I can’t say for sure what is causing this progress.  But, hey, this is progress.  I’m allowed to have a little celebration when it happens.

I went to the coffee shop with the kids yesterday.  I was positively reinforcing (not bribing, who said that?) the kids with juice boxes and snacks.  The kids were well behaved.  And by that, I mean that they were contained to one area, not playing with the door, not running into people, not pouring drinks, and smearing sugar and milk, and the myriad of other things they would do if left to their own devices.  They were still pretty loud and fidgety though.  The lady sitting close by trying to read her book gave a frown our way, indicating non-verbally, that we were disturbing her.  But Pudding communicated by flapping her hands that she was happy, and Cubby by dancing (to his own music), so I didn’t feel the need to move on.  And then, one of those rare instances of a genuine smile from another customer.  She was telling me it was okay, my kids were okay.  No words were necessary to tell me that, but it is a communication I always treasure.

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Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 27, 2010 at 7:12 am