A Cup of Milk

Despite all of Gabes amazingness, he does struggle with speech. He is great at single syllable words but often leaves off the last sound; cat=cah, dog=doh. He is wonderful with frequently used words; Mommy, Daddy, sister, NO! and bad dog, are all clear as can be. He can put small words together to make requests; “milk please”. But unless you’re around Gabe as often as we are, or your familiar with the signs that he uses along with the words he says, it can be hard to understand him. Even I have trouble some days. 

But!  That doesn’t stop him from getting his point across.  He recently had a tonsillectomy and it made his voice and words even more muffled than usual.  I was experiencing a great deal of difficulty understanding him and he was pretty frustrated with me. Usually he will use sign along with his words to tell me what he is needing, but this specific day he was just too uncomfortable, tired and frustrated. After repeated failures of understanding what he needed, he turned around and huffed out of the room.  I didn’t go after him as he will usually return after a few moments and try again or change his mind and do something else. 

He was gone for maybe ten minutes. When he returned to sisters bedroom where we had previously been trying to figure out what he needed, his desire was VERY clear. He was dragging with him a jug of milk, and carrying not just a sippy cup, but a matching lid as well!  I was awestruck. Not just by him figuring out a way to communicate his needs but by everything that he had just accomplished. 

I’ve talked before about the challenges that Gabe faces and how that extra chromosome of his can make things harder for him. Motor planning (thinking about what your body needs to do and then doing it), problem solving and critical thinking are difficult. But Gabe continues to find ways to complete these tasks and surprise us! 

Aside from the strength it takes for a little 28 pound boy to yank open the fridge door and pull out a jug of milk. He then dragged it out of the kitchen and down the hall!  Before he did that though, he knew that he needed something to put it in!  Not just any something, but specifically a sippy cup WITH a lid. We have a variety of sippy cups in the kids’ drawer, they’re tossed in there with the lids mixed in.  Gabe had to sort through, pick out a cup AND a lid that matched each other. He did. He brought that matching cup with lid along with the jug of milk all the way into sisters room for me to pour him something to drink. 

When I took stock of what all he had returned with, I was shocked and overjoyed. Gabe had taken it upon himself to show mommy what he needed when I couldn’t understand. But it was so much more than that too!  It was critical thinking, problem solving, strength, motor planning, sorting, matching, and it was amazing.  This little guy doesn’t let others ability or inability to understand him stop him from expressing his needs!  He is determined and creative and I am once again in awe of this little guys resourcefulness and determination!  

I took a quick video of him in sisters room with his items before pouring his milk!  (Which he enjoyed!) 

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Use Your Words

imageBefore I began my career as a nurse, I worked as a preschool teacher (and I still wanted children!). I said things like “use your walking feet“, “teeth are for smiling and eating apples but not biting our friends” and my personal favorite “use your words“.  I find myself using similar sayings even now when speaking to my children and sometimes even with my patients.   However, I never thought twice about requesting a child to use their words, until I realized that my son might have difficulties forming and using his own words.

The idea that I may not hear the word “mama” uttered from his sweet little mouth until he was quite a bit older made my heart ache a bit. I could remember vividly when my daughter, still small enough to be in her pack-n-play, woke up in the middle of the night to nurse.  She requested in a small but almost desperate tone for “Mama”. My husband looked startled, and asked me if I had heard that.

I had heard it, and was almost in tears, because I had heard much more than those two little syllables. I had heard, “I love you, I need you, I know who you are and you have earned the right to be called my mama”. Okay, so most of that was probably the sleep deprivation that our daughter imposed on us with her insistence on not sleeping. EVER. But there is something so special about  BEING mama for your child for the first time.

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Fast forward a couple of years and I found myself with a different little one in the same pack-n-play in our room. One particular night I sat staring at his little swaddled form and wondering, when will I be “Mama” to him. What I found over the next few months is that “Mama” sounded different when said from Gabe. To him “Mama” was outstretched hands and a giant soggy grin. It was a speed crawl with head tucked under for maximum efficiency directly to my ankles. It was a wobbly walk along the furniture to be wherever I was, just so he could place his chubby hand softly on my knee and look up at me with such adoration in his eyes that it could make my stomach flip flop. Currently, it’s a blonde hair, blue eyed toddler, pulling at my tshirt hem, and saying “Ah-Mee” in his tiny toddler voice.

You see sometimes communication looks or sounds different that what we expect. For most, communication consists of the words that we can hear. The understandable things that are spoken from ones mouth to another’s ear. For some it could be their hands that communicate for them, allowing them to share their desires and appreciation. For others, it could be written word, or touch to speak apps, or taking you by the hand and showing you what they mean. The important thing to know is that communication can take on a variety of forms. It’s imperitive that we take the time to recognize that despite what you might or might not hear uttered from someone’s mouth, what they have to say is just as important to them as what you have to say is to you.

I challenge you to just take a moment the next time that you have the opportunity to meet someone who’s style of communication seems different than yours, to stop and HEAR what they’re trying to say.  It may take a little extra time for them to share it with you, but I’m almost certain that it will be worth it.