Reading Between the Lines
Communication can be challenging even between the most articulate of persons. Missed nuances, misinterpreted tones, misunderstood intentions.
Trouble understanding each other expands geometrically without a shared native tongue, or worse, with no shared language at all.
Imagine the struggle when a person has little or no ability to speak. In the special needs world, the term “non-verbal” is often applied to persons who actually have some spoken or written language capability, but at a barely functional level.
Parents of limited-language children spend a great deal of time guessing the meaning of actions or utterances that would totally confuse outsiders. Words that are not enunciated clearly, atypical gesturing, aggressive behavior, a face devoid of emotional clues.
Without clear communication signals, we have to make educated guesses. This is an art form in and of itself. Autistic individuals may have particularly unique ways of expressing themselves. On movie field trip day at our son’s new special needs program for young adults, we received a phone call.
“He won’t leave the theater and we have to catch a bus.”
“Have the end credits finished? He won’t budge until the end credits have completely cleared the screen.” How would someone new to our son know that?
“He was lying face down in the middle of the hallway today.”
“That usually means his stomach is upset,” we explain. It took us years to figure that one out, so how could anyone else guess?
Parents and teachers not only work hard to understand an individual’s mode of expression, we also try to teach communication skills so the general population can understand.
Sometimes there’s progress. Sometimes there isn’t.
In the meantime, we keep reading between the lines.
This week’s Hike Notes, Golden Gate Overlook Walk, leads past historic military sites with the Golden Gate Bridge in view.
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Hike Notes 86: Golden Gate Overlook Walk
Sharing insights and hiking highlights (Hikes, Hike Search by Area) from the special needs caregiver front in San Francisco.