"Look At Me"

"Look At Me"
monotype and screenprint

Monday, February 13, 2012

Silence is Not Always Golden

I had a friend over last Friday for a few hours.  Tyler was at school and Derek was home.  He didn't have preschool and his therapist was unable to make it.  During the entire time my friend was over Derek said a total of one word:  "Hi."  And it was because I asked him to. 

Derek's language has increased ten-fold in the last 6 months.  Just last week I heard him say "Hap pissa" (Have pizza--which he doesn't even eat) and "teef" (teeth) for the first time ever.  He's talking more and more.  But he talks around people he knows--his family, his therapists, and his teachers.  He still won't talk around strangers.  Most of his speech is labeling.  He'll tell you what things are.  Like pigs and cows and cookies.  He still cannot tell someone his name, where he lives, or his phone number.  This terrifies me. 

You don't realize how important communication is until you have a child who cannot communicate.  Over the weekend my entire family had the stomach flu.  All four of us were vomiting.  Derek threw up maybe 15 times in a four hour period.  He kept repeating "help" and "ow."  It broke my heart.  That was the only way for him to tell me he was in pain.  Luckily, I could tell what was wrong.  But what do I do when he has an ear infection or a sinus infection?  I have no way of knowing what hurts or where the pain is.  I can ask, but getting him to point to what hurts is a challenge.  Usually he just cries or whimpers.  If his fever gets too high, I take him to a doctor, which he hates, and it is a process of elimination until we figure out what is wrong. 

All day Sunday, as my sick child whimpered and cried, I kept telling him I was sorry and that I knew how much he hurt.  I tried to anticipate his needs--getting him gatorade and wiping his forehead with a washcloth.  I held him while he vomited and hugged him afterward, wiping his tears away.  The helplessness I felt was unbearable. 

The person who said that Silence is Golden did not have a non-verbal child.

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