AAC for A’s movie

These last weeks I’ve been feeling out how my little life revolves around my little boys. I watch the moments I spend just watching, notice the sound of laughter in my voice that comes from being a mother, brush exhaustion aside for responsibility. I think about A’s challenges and how I cannot adopt them as my own. I cheer and support and encourage and witness but his solutions live within him, as it is for all of us.

Sometimes it’s easy to lose perspective of A’s autonomy. When a child is so seemingly dependent, passive, wordless, you can get into the habit of directing, assuming,… controlling. I fill in the blanks. I reach for what seems appropriate. I say aloud what I think he wants to say aloud. I move him from A to B because I feel like it. I right what annoys me and introduce what I think inspires, intrigues, comforts. I am the director and producer of A’s little movie and maybe even the starring role. But I want his input. It’s time. It’s beyond time.

Inspired by this blog, by a woman dedicated to giving her child a voice, I’m similarly pursuing alternative communication for A. I bought the speak for yourself app for our iPad mini and we’ve been spending the past couple of weeks modelling to A how to use it, with some hand-over-hand practice. It’s tricky because A does not point, but I’m hoping this might motivate him, and I’m hoping the keyguard that should be arriving soon will make things easier.

I know A is bright and he understand what’s going on. Today I was making some sentences on the talker like “A plays guitar” and “Mom loves A” and “Luna plays ball” etc. and he was into it. Mostly, we use it at mealtime and point to words like “more” “eat” “drink” etc. Once the keyguard arrives, we’ll work harder on getting him to do it.

Here’s a little video I took of A using picture cards. When the choice he wants isn’t present, he doesn’t make a choice (makes sense!), but as soon as I add in what he’s after, he immediately chooses it. I find this interesting in that… holy cats my kid is telling me something (finally!) and holy cats we need more words ASAP. We need the breadth and depth of language to at least be available if he’s going to grow into wanting to communicate with us. That’s only fair.

A has always been a “if it’s not easy I won’t bother” type dude. I feel like he is capable of communicating much more than we’re allowing but the fact that he isn’t is no biggie to him (BUT IT IS TO HIS MAMA. LET’S DO THIS!).

Watch and learn

I sometimes adopt a passive approach to mothering. It’s not a new thing, but something I’ve been doing for quite awhile now, and the results keep me humble. As A’s mama, I know how to do things regarding his care: I know how to feed him, how to bathe him, how to encourage, calm, or distract him. But he is also not me, and I don’t know him completely (and we all change, from day to day), and so when others join in to play… or feed or dress or calm… I try to keep myself from jumping in to do things the “correct” way. Because there is a spectrum of correct and I only know what I know and I don’t know what others know. Knowing how to be with a child is sometimes an experiment… they are learning, you are teaching, you are learning, and they are teaching. So instead of letting frustration rise within me and interrupting a moment he has with someone else, I observe.

I’ve noticed that when I relax and watch these interactions, I discover things about A I wouldn’t otherwise have noticed (and learning new things about A is a constant joy for me). Other people think differently and introduce new avenues of play or communication. Some of it resonates better with A than the way I do it. Like I said, humbling. But also wonderful.

This little “stepping back” strategy has blended into other parts of my life. Silly things like cooking, housework, free time. When something happens out of my control, I don’t instantly try to align it to my preference, but watch what happens, and sometimes it’s for the best.

This often happens with life with A – he teaches me how to be more alive, calm, mindful, aware. The practices I adopt in caring for him in turn improve my own life.

To end, here’s a super cute vid of A in a therapy swing for the first time: