The value of talking to those who can't talk to youBy Jane Holmes
August 25, 2011
When you have a small child who is not yet talking, it is vital that you keep the chat going.
It's not always easy, but you can tell where to pitch your conversation and you can point things out to them or explain how things work to keep them entertained, learning and feeling valued.
So imagine a girl of nine who can't talk. This is a child who is into rock music, insists on wearing black, is a keen member of the RSPB, likes horse-riding, swimming and riding her trike and who tells me, by literally spelling it out on a chart, that I shouldn't 'juj' her for still liking Sylvanian Families.
It is quite hard to know, when you are not getting the standard style of feedback, how to pitch a conversation at a non-verbal child.
I suppose, for some people, it is tempting to talk to them as though they are small children and start pointing out new words, or counting up to three with them.
Often, when the only response you get is a grunt or a rather indiscernable nod, there is a great temptation to drift off into your own sweet reverie, ignoring the person who is trying desperately to communicate with you.
It's so much easier for you, after all.
So, if you ever meet someone who is non-verbal, talk to them.
Talk to them at an appropriate level and ask them questions, even if you need a carer to help interpret.
It is difficult to keep a conversation going with someone who can't talk, in that it takes effort and imagination, but let's face it, most of us manage it with toddlers; all you have to do with older children is raise the bar, find points of interest and keep it going.
Ignoring people devalues them. It erodes their self-esteem and they feel like giving up.
Very many disabled children who have survived into childhood have done so by pushing themselves harder than most of us can even comprehend, by keeping themselves as focussed and determined as an Olympic athlete and by never allowing self-indulgence or laziness to stop them.
It is not asking very much from those of us who have it so easy in comparison to follow their lead, employ just a tiny bit of that Herculian effort and just talk to them.