Blogging about life in Minnesota, raising our six kids with Down syndrome while battling Breast Cancer.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, "Oh shit! She's up!"

Monday, September 24, 2012

Communication: Why is it so difficult?

When my  now-adult boys were little, I happily sent them off to school each day. In the afternoon they would come home, chattering away about all the things they'd done while they were away from me; what they ate for lunch, who they played with at recess, who had a birthday or that they'd had Art or Music that day. We had conversations about their day.

Now I have three kids with limited communication skills. Angela is able to tell me what is important to her, like who she at lunch with, or that she saw a favorite teacher in the hall. There are other things she tries to tell me but she is very difficult to understand, even for me, so unless someone has told me ahead of time or I know the context, much is lost in translation.

Axel, he is completely unable to tell me about his day. Sometimes he might come home and sign "birthday" along with the name sign of one of his classmates. Assuming I know the name signs I'm able to put together that so-and-so had a birthday. He is not able to tell me anything else. He can't tell me about his favorite song they're doing in music, what they did in phy ed, or who he played with at recess.

And then there is Asher, who has NO school-based language at all. The signs he knows are limited to the 50 or so he's learned from me in the 9 months since we adopted him. He can't tell me even the smallest detail about his day. Nothing. I send him to school silent and stoic and he returns to me the same way. I open his lunch box to see that he ate lunch...or did he? I have no idea. I use other clues: the dust on his shoes tells me he was on the playground, the marker on his hands tells me he attempted to color.

I don't think that teachers, unless they themselves are parenting a child with limited language skills, understand how difficult it is to send our children out into the world and expect that all is good and well. None of my kids can tell me they got 100% - or an F - on a spelling or math test, that they made a cool project in art or that their schedule is confusing to them.  Those same kids who can't tell me about the fun things they've done all day? They're also unable to tell me about anything unpleasant that has happened to them. They can't tell me if they've had a problem on the bus with someone. They can't tell me if anyone is harassing them in the halls. They can't tell me about problems in the locker room, the cafeteria, that they don't like a staff person at school - or why.

If you're a teacher and you're reading this....please...please understand why we parents of kids who are language impaired NEED you to communicate with us. Its not that we're trying to create more work for you, but because we're trying to encourage our kids to communicate with us but we need the information from you in order to prompt our kids and teach them HOW to communicate.

But its more than that. We NEED to know what our children are doing each and every day while they're away from us. We need to know who they play with, who they choose to eat with, that they struggled to keep up in phy. ed, that they really enjoyed the craft activity you did today, or even that they DID a craft activity today!

We have entrusted our babies to you, please respect our trust.


Anna said...

I wonder if you could type out a fill in the blank or check the box form that the teacher/aide could whiz through in a few mins? I had: pe, music, art today. Circle one. Etc? Might take some creativity or research but might be worth it? I will ask my daughter , teacher in special Ed, if there is name for such a thing.

Kathy said...

amen. I have had to ask many times for a note as to whether or not PJ had a bm, he has constipation issues. I KNOW the teachers have a lot to do, and it DOES seem like a lot to ask for, but how else can we know what's happening with our kids at school? This frustrates me, too.

Jackie said...

Oh leah how this speaks volumes. I ask Asa how is day was every night. I ask him if he played with Seth on the playground or whether he sat next to Nina in circle. At least I get a "Yup" but I know he's just agreeing with me and not really responding to the questions I'm asking him. I wish there was more communication as well. Just a little note in his back pack telling me how his day was. Did he play with anyone? Did he have difficult with certain tasks? That's all I need... Just a little tid bit of his day to share....

AZ Chapman said...

AS a future special ed teacher I wll most defently send records / videos home about their day

Anonymous said...

Leah - Although we homechool, I can totally relate to really wanting to know what is going on in o children's life and mind. Even at home lots happens out of my presence to Noah (5-DS) that he can't tell me about. It does make all those "minor" moments of real communication all the more precious. Your description of not knowing whether your kiddo is really meaning to say yes or is just being agreeable sounds SOOOO familiar. So eager to please. I have heard of parents sending forms to school with their kids that the teacher can at least check off a few boxes every day as to what activities occurred, who your child played with,etc. Maybe you could go and observe for a day and try to come up with a form. Maybe I should make one for Noah so he can "converse" with his dad at the end of the day.