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Saturday, 7 June 2014

Seth and I start talking to each other!

Yesterday Craig and I attended a course organised by the Speech & Language Therapists. There were a mix of parents, teachers and support workers. It was all day and there is a 2nd day, and a further morning in a couple of weeks.

What frustrates me the most at the moment is our inability to understand Seth's wishes. We interpret a lot of very subtle body language and so get by on that. However, he bangs his head a lot which I believe is often related to frustration at not being understand, and a much easier way of saying 'no', even though we don't actually know what he wants instead, or often even what he's actually saying 'no' to!

We've signed with Seth for years, tried objects of reference and switches but don't feel any of this is actually working. Seth's visual impairment doesn't help with this. Not knowing what he can actually see means we don't know what will work best for him. My goal for this course was to come away with a toolkit that will enable us to apply a consistent method of giving him choices that he can respond to. And I think we're going to get just that.

The morning of the course was spent watching a presentation on why communication is so important but an appreciation on why communication aids can be difficult and frustrating to use, there was some group discussion and we watched a couple of amazing videos of children and adults with no, or limited speech, who were using both low and high tech symbol boards to effectively communicate. It was very inspiring.

In the afternoon we discussed the 5 stages that our children progress through and the core language for each stage. For Seth, who is at stage 1, we simply need to start with the 'more' and 'stop' symbol. It could take months to get the hang of it but once he has we can expand the language and symbols. By the end of the course we will have created our own personalised boards to take home with us.

I have learnt that asking him questions isn't enough. I need to be continually commenting on his subtle body language telling him how I think he's responding to my question. I need to give him time to process my question. And then I need to continually point to the appropriate symbol. They called it 'modelling'. The idea is that, in time, Seth will understand the symbols and learn that if he eye points to them he will be able to clearly tell me what he wants. I'm quite excited about this. I knew all of this kind of before but I've now had a step by step instruction on how to do it. Today we have already started. We didn't have the symbols with us but I kept up that commentary, asking him a question and then saying 'I think that you want....' and things like that. Normally I would still read that body language but by voicing it back to Seth I was telling him that I understand what he was 'saying'. I really felt a difference and he seemed a lot more relaxed. I also noticed a lot more than I would have before, I think.  So I asked him a question and he tapped his foot and I read that as a response, rather than just a random movement. So I told him that I thought he was saying 'yes' and he laughed. It made me aware that he was communicating to me a lot more than I had ever realised which really is very exciting.