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.
- 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!