Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Seeing Signs

Words, words, words. Where would we be without them? Hark back to the days when humans had not yet discovered speech. They communicated with signs, pictograms and grunts. Even today, when in a foreign country, tourists and natives can cobble together some form of communication with just a map and some hand signs. 

These days, there are a number of ways to communicate. I will forever be grateful for technology that allows my non-verbal son to express himself more clearly, but sometimes the simplest ways are most effective.

While Little A has long been using that standard yes and no head movements and waving hello or goodbye, his sign language was limited to "thank you" (which most people mistake for a flying kiss), "all done" and the basic toilet signal, patting his crotch, which again can be misconstrued by most of the public.

Lately though, he has been more expressive using hand signs. 

The Goodbye song performed at the end of each school day involves a "see you" hand sign that looks like a salute. For a few weeks now, when I drop Little A off, or leave him at home for a meeting, when I say "see you later" he responds with that hand sign. He does it to store salespeople as well, and restaurant staff when we are in the mall. 

I tried to teach him many times to call someone's attention by tapping their shoulder, then making eye contact and pointing to something or showing a written or typed set of words. When he wants something and simply tugs my hand towards it, I remind him to "ask," whereupon he promptly taps his own shoulder, and then points to the object he wants. Close, but not quite. 

Last week, his Occupational Therapist once asked me if Little A's shoulder was hurting as he kept tapping it. I told her this was his way of "asking" and that if she observed more closely, the shoulder tapping would be followed immediately by seeking an object or an action. 

She must have worked on this with him because yesterday, for maybe the first time, when he wanted something Little A tapped my arm and then indicated towards what he wanted. Such a small action, one most people take for granted, but for Little A this was a huge, man-on-the-moon momentous step. I wanted to shout for joy but simply smiled at him and said, "Good asking. Yes, you can borrow that."

This was only one time, though, so I'm not calling the press yet, but waiting and seeing, and hoping it becomes a regular thing. Baby steps will still get us there in the end.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Seventh Church

On Holy Thursday in the Philippines, there is a Catholic tradition of visiting churches. Called Visita Iglesia, the "proper" way was to visit fourteen churches and say one of the Stations of the Cross at each one.

Most families these days visit seven, or at least ours has for as long as I can remember. We don't do the Stations of the Cross (that's something done on the evening of Good Friday) but do say our own quiet prayers at each one.

Since Little A came into the family, we have continued the tradition, but now do the church visits on Good Friday. And as we no longer live in the neighbourhoods we both grew up in, the churches we visit are the ones nearest where we live.

Big A has narrowed down the churches to six Catholic ones within a five mile radius, and one that is Anglican. He has a special affinity for this church because it is so simply furnished. None of the ornate altar carvings nor solid gold statues of velvet-attired saints, this one has simple wooden pews and a large cross. It keeps prayer straightforward, he feels.

I have no objections to visiting this church because as a product of the British boarding school system, I attended an Anglican school for five years. Every student was required to attend Chapel on weekday mornings, and a service on Sundays, when the Catholic contingent (less than 20 of us, all told) were bussed to the nearest church for Mass.

Our campus Chapel was small but pretty, and our weekday services consisted of a hymn, a reading or some school announcements, and a prayer to conclude. Each one lasted fifteen or twenty minutes and took place after breakfast and before the start of classes.

When the school closed in 2004 and the campus was turned into residential flats, the Chapel was either demolished or repurposed. Luckily, the altar remains, and has moved to a new home in Kentish Town.

This June, all alumni are called back to attend a memorial service for our former Head of Dance, who passed away early this year. It also marks 21 years since I left school and 11 since the campus relocated to Birmingham. I have not yet decided whether or not I will attend as the trip over requires funds and a visa. I will keep my fingers crossed, but in the meantime these annual visits to our neighbourhood Anglican church keep my memories of boarding school very much alive.