It all comes down to language

When you have a child who is considered non-verbal, even with all her gains, is a difficult life. You, the parent, do not understand why she is hitting her head. She, the child, doesn’t understand why she cannot have an 8th Pop Tart (thanks, Grandma for that addiction).  You try to understand the extremes, yet you find yourself being frustrated about the little things.

Your child cannot tell you about their day. You are thankful when her teacher sends you a picture in the hope you can elicit conversation. And then it backfires.

You show your child a picture from her day at school. You ask, what did you do at school today. She replies: Miss Lynn ate cupcake.

Now I know that Miss Lynn did not eat Bridget’s cupcake. At least I’m pretty sure she didn’t. I do know that I am showing Bridget a picture of her and Miss Lynn and there is no cupcake in the picture.

I don’t want to accuse Bridget of lying, but in her defense there was no cupcake in the picture but there was one in her lunch box.

I show her another picture, of Bridget holding a book with Sydney in the background. Bridget, did you go to the library? I go gym. Sydney hit my face with ball. KICK!

Again, I’m pretty sure Sydney is not in the habit of hitting Bridget’s face. I would also bet that Sydney didn’t kick her. I’m not so sure that Bridget didn’t kick Sydney.

I asked Bridget’s neurologist about how to ask better questions. Why is Bridget not responding. I am trying to use the tools given by her speech therapists, her teachers and anything I read using Google. As always, her neurologist explains it in words I can understand.

You show Bridget a picture. You ask her: What did you do in school today? She understood:

Bridget, yada yada you yada yada school.  Miss Lynn is in the picture. She is grasping to understand what you asked. She sees Miss Lynn, she knows she had a cupcake and she knows she was a school. Her reply makes perfect sense, even if it is not factual.

Bridget sees the picture of Sydney. She did not understand the word “library” but she knows that Sydney was in gym. So….She associates Sydney with gym and that they played soccer. She embellishes that Sydney kicked her in the face.

This is why I love Bridget’s neurologist. Not only does she explain it in a way I can understand, she gives me direction.

Instead of asking vague questions, take the picture and ask SPECIFIC questions about what is happening.

Bridget is holding a book, Sydney is behind her. Ask: Bridget did you read a book today? Did Sydney help you with the book? What book?

Bridget is in a picture with Miss Lynn and there is no cupcake present: Bridget …. yeah there is probably no way of getting her not accusing Miss Lynn so she can get another cupcake.

She is delayed, not stupid.


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