Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Mothering & Communication Fails

I have noticed that I am messing up in some areas lately. Communication with Jaycee is different. Due to her Down syndrome and severe childhood apraxia of speech, Jaycee's spoken vocabulary is limited. She uses gestures, sign language, verbal speech, and a speech generating communication device for a total communication approach.

I am a speech-language pathologist who knows about best communication practices but I am also a mother. Like any mother, I have instincts with my child. I can anticipate her moves. I know what her mannerisms mean and what her preferences are. This is very helpful in many situations and circumstances. However, this also causes me to step in when I should be allowing Jaycee opportunities to be independent and communicate for herself.

As my 6 year old son grows up, I learn about new aspects of communication from him. He's constantly trying to negotiate with me, asserting his independence, and letting his preferences be known. He begs for sodas when I say no. He asks for 5 more minutes when I say it's bedtime. He sees something on television, and he asks me for it. My communication with him makes me see the areas I am failing in with Jaycee.

  • Restaurants: Most of the time, I ask Jaycee what food she wants since she has all the food items on her communication device. However, I usually don't have her tell the waitress what she wants. I tend to order for her, which is a communication fail. In the past, Jaycee has ordered the wrong thing (an item not on the menu) or will get sidetracked on her talker and go off topic. But, I need to let her learn and make mistakes. Other times in the past, the waitress will look at Jaycee as she communicates on her device as if Jaycee is speaking a foreign language. Sometimes my tendency to speak for her in restaurants is to prevent these awkward social situations.

Jaycee's restaurant food page on her communication device

  • Clothing: On the weekends, Jaycee chooses her clothing for the day. During the week, I tend to pick out her clothes. This may seem insignificant, but I haven't been choosing my son's clothing for some time now. Jaycee in general doesn't protest about what I suggest she wear. (Except for that one time.) But, I do need to do better at involving her in the process and giving her a chance to express her preferences.

  • Waiting: My son often tells me to wait. He asks for more time for playing. He tells me he'll do something in a minute. He can respond to my commands in ways that Jaycee can't. If I tell her to do something, I expect it to be done almost immediately. If she protests by throwing herself on the ground, I don't try to negotiate. This is a big communication fail! I need to give her the same types of options that I do her brother. Maybe she just needs one more minute with her priceless I-Pad and things will go smoother.

So with these things in mind, I will try to do better with my daughter. I will try to help her to be more independent and to allow her to use her methods to communicate in these areas. I will try to remember to examine my routines with her periodically and remember that she is maturing.

Perhaps, I will have a restaurant success story to share here one day!

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