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.

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