Communication is key within a family. From the earliest days of parenthood it is a joy to hear your child’s little burbles and chirrups. Even with the beginnings of language it feels like you are having a conversation with your child – that they are telling you about their world even if they don’t yet have the words for it and even if you can’t yet comprehend what they are saying.
This simple parental pleasure can be disrupted when your child has communication problems. It can feel over-whelming. You don’t even understand your own child and this can feel lonely and desperately sad. This can be further compounded if your child has acute difficulties or complex problems.
I don’t always understand what my son says to me. He’s very patient about this and will repeat multiple times. We’re lucky at how resilient he is but it can cause him frustration if there are mis-hearings or half answers given. Speech is one of the places where my son’s difficulties overlap. His speech is indistinct because he has dyspraxia, his conversation can be hard to predict because he has autism and the content can be as bizarre simply because he is a wonderful and imaginative seven year old boy.
We were rushing to a swimming lesson the other Friday when my son said something that I didn’t catch. I asked him to repeat and he mumbled something while looking in the opposite direction. I explained there was a lot of background noise and he would need to face me. He repeated and I still couldn’t work out what he was saying – couldn’t even guess from context. I asked him to repeat again which he did without any success. I caught one of the words and repeated it but couldn’t work out what he was saying. I said ‘I’m so sorry. I can’t understand what you’re saying’. He looked me square in the eye and said, ‘we’re not connecting’. I asked him what he meant and he explained ‘connecting is when you say what is in your head and it connects with what is in the other person’s head – when you say what is in your heart and it connects with what is in the other person’s heart’. Before I could answer he looked at me sadly and said, ‘but we’re not connecting’.
I felt terrible but also over-awed. What a beautiful description of communication. But how awful – that my son felt I couldn’t understand him because our hearts weren’t connecting.
My son is so contradictory. He can mumble words that I cannot understand and then will deliver a beautiful analogy for communication as part of a conversation. It gave me a glimpse of how difficult daily life must be for him. How much hard work must it be? To be constantly trying to connect with what’s in other people’s heads? How upsetting must it be to be constantly failing to connect with other people’s hearts?
I’ve thought a lot about this. I think what my son was doing was simply describing comprehension – simple communication. It’s just, for him, this is not something he can take for granted. Communication is a mysterious beast that he is trying to understand – one rule at a time. Often he processes this understanding through his own experience and sometimes he has to fill in the gaps. This can lead to frustration and confusion but it can also lead to a beautiful interpretation of the world and our connection with those around us.
*thanks to @rosetintworld for this wonderful blog. You can follow on Twitter
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