Monday, June 03, 2013

Starting the Day The Non-Verbal Way

I got a big reminder today of something that had been faded into the background for a few years for us. A big reminder of something that should always be remembered.

Today, Joey started his day non-verbal. For a good twenty minutes, he was unable to speak.

It was a little startling. I noticed he was quiet, but he had woken up grumpy, so I just thought maybe he had calmed down and was thinking or something. So I asked him how he was feeling. This question has become part of routine for us in the last couple of weeks, and it refers to a color chart associated with emotion; I was expecting a color word (red, yellow, green, blue). I was particularly interested in this particular zone system because color words are something Joey tends to retain, even when he has few words to use; and this has been so since he was very small. There were a few early months of speech when he would answer questions with colors- especially if he didn't understand the question.

"How are you feeling?" I asked again, realizing I had gotten no response, even though I was searching for his raincoat. I waited; processing can be a little delayed in the morning, especially a grumpy morning. I stopped searching. I looked at him. He was looking at me, his face slack, but his eyes... I remember that look. It was the one he used to give us when he came home from school, and was silent for 20-30 minutes because he was out of words. I blinked.

"Are you in the blue zone, baby?" I prompted, trying to feed him a word he could cling to and echo for me. Instead, he turned away, picked up his backpack, started playing with the door.

This is a phenomenon we have trouble getting Joey's teachers and friends to really understand. I know Joey could speak ten minutes ago. However, he cannot do it right now. Trying to force him is just going to overwhelm him. This can be true of any number of skills, but language is particularly crucial- and notable. He understood what I was saying, but he could not answer the question. He had no language for that. I still don't know why.

With the raincoat MIA, we sat outside together, me clutching an umbrella, he with his head on my shoulder. Often in the morning, we chat together for these few minutes. I let him tell me anything he wants to say, ask me anything he wants to know. Sometimes we just script, sometimes we have real conversation, sometimes he wants me to read something, sometimes he wants to sing. It's all good. Today, we sat in silence. I didn't want to burden him with words. He nuzzled my shoulder, silent. It was the "I love you" script, just wordless.

When the bus came, I opened the umbrella, and out we walked together. Halfway, his words returned.

"The rain is getting on me!" I moved the umbrella, but the usual stream of script I would normally hear was absent. We reach the bus door, and as he climbed up the stairs, he called out, "Thank you, Mommy!"

You'll be happy to know the rest of his school day was green.

Sometimes, you just have to have some time to be silent and get that brain together. No problemo.