Originally Published: August 13, 2007 11:47 a.m.
It just has to be frustrating to try and ask a simple question while not being understood. A few years ago I spent 3 weeks in Italy, touring by myself. It was great, except when I need directions. I don't speak Italian and it was very difficult trying to get a question answered. I managed to keep safe and enjoy my time, but it was frustrating at times because of the language barriers.
So how does this relate to people with special needs? My son at age 7, and with the disadvantage of having to deal with the effects of Down syndrome, has his own form of language barrier. As articulate as he is, his mom and I still encounter times where Ryan just cannot get his points across or his questions answered.
He may ask, "Mom, dad, need urle uck toy uck elph. Help?" This is what we hear. To him it's clear, "Mom, dad, I need the purple truck toy and it is stuck on the shelf. Help?" Naturally, we ask him to repeat himself. He does and when we still don't get it, it's clear that he is getting frustrated. "Humpf! Noooo." A couple of stomps of his feet and we know he's reached his breaking point.
We have been here before, and what have we learned? Ah-ha! A teachable moment. To begin with, we let him know that we understand his aggravation, but do not allow him get out of control. We help him here, and taking his little hand, ask him to "show us." We walk into his room and he points, "Urle uck." Now it is clear, "purple truck"! Taking the toy from the shelf, we deal with his immediate request and then kneeling down, hold the toy out to him and slowly state, "puurr-ple truck. Purple truck." He repeats "urple tuck". Correcting further mispronunciations we all settle for, "purple twuck". "Great job!", we exclaim, and chalk up another successful lesson.
However, and just as important, part of these lessons are ours as parents or guardians. What we as parents have had to learn is that actions such as Ryan's are understandable. When he attempts to communicate and it isn't working, he gets irritated. Who wouldn't! Our long term goal of course, is that his language skills develop to the point where this does not happen. Shorter-term, that he knows that we do want to listen to him and that his questions will be answered, and sometimes this means we stop what we are doing LISTEN! In the end, we want our little boy to know that we are going to be there for him, and go through these difficult times with him.