Deciphering Almost Non-Verbal

One of the most challenging parts of raising George is trying to work out what he wants. Trying to decipher the noises he is making and what they mean.

For over a year he made a noise that sounded like “boopaa” which we could not place, we tried, unendingly. Eventually, we realised it was a reference to a YouTuber (PkSparkxx – family-friendly Nintendo gamer) who shouts “Boost Panel” when his kart is boosted in Mario Kart.

More recently he has started saying “I-am-a” repeatedly. We do not know what it could mean, his teachers do not know, his carers and transport assistants do not know. We keep asking him possible meanings but that leads to the main issue with interpreting his “words”.

George will often repeat the last word said by you, this makes it difficult to separate repetition from affirmation.

“Would you like a biscuit?”

“Biscuit”

Does he want a biscuit or just repeated the word. There is a chance that when handing him a biscuit he’ll say “no” but more often than not he’ll take all the biscuits and throw them in the bin.

Hot Chocolate

Today he spent the morning saying what sounded like “chocolate”. We asked him several times what he wanted as he doesn’t have a sweet tooth and rarely eats chocolate. Eventually, we ended up on hot chocolate and George readily repeated “ho cocla”. This is something he doesn’t often have at home but every Friday his teacher takes him to the school cafe and they have hot chocolate together. It’s half term so maybe he was sad he would miss out?

So I headed out to the shops as we can’t keep these items in the house with George. I bought him a hot chocolate sachet (a whole tin would be put in the mug at once or thrown in the bin) and some milk to cool it down. When I arrived home I handed him the bag and he excitedly took it to the kitchen. He watched me prepare the drink and carry it to the table for him. He looked at it, walked it back to the kitchen, poured it down the sink, looked at me and said “chocolate”….. I guess it wasn’t hot chocolate he was after.

The frustration is heart-braking

Last night George had put the TV onto Apple TV and was using his iPad to control it. We have purchased a lot of movies and TV shows for him on there over the years and he is competent looking through it.

Last night however he could not find what he was looking for. He kept handing me the iPad and saying something I just could not understand. His face was heart-breaking, he wanted me to help him so much but I just couldn’t. I named every show and movie I could think of, we looked through the listings again and again. Nothing. He just sobbed until I could finally distract him with some games.

When my daughter was a toddler she asked her mother to get me to stop the rain. When Chrissy told her that was beyond my powers her face fell. The unfathomable fallibility of her father. That’s the look I get from George every time I don’t understand something important to him.

So what does work?

Now and next cards have been great, as has his PECS book. Symbols allow him to communicate his needs for simple things; drinks, snacks, dinner, bath, toys etc. They work consistently and effectively. We have his school to thank for this, they put in the hard work getting George to understand how to use them.

We have additional laminated cards for his favourite toys and foods which also help. For the Wii, he has the discs together in a disc wallet so he can pick what to do next and has accepted a “one in, one out” rule. He is also shockingly good at navigating Apple TV (usually), Netflix and Amazon Prime to find his favourite shows.

I’d love to hear your communication stories in the comments. How do you get on understanding your child? What works for you?

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