This is something that I have come to realize as a mother of a beautiful, expressive, and very determined young lady of 15 years, who doesn't necessarily use language to communicate all the time. Nevertheless, she always has managed to connect and get her point across in her own unique ways.
See, some of our children are verbal, minimally verbal, not functionally verbal, and some, even if they have a lot of language, choose to speak in minimalistic word, phrase pattern. That does not mean they are “low functioning, high support needs, challenged behaviorally and communication wise”. All it takes to communicate and understand them is a Listening Heart filled with Empathy and Compassion.
We are all guilty of speaking “at” our children, “about” them in front of them and sometimes, we think and act in a manner like we think we know what is best for them. We need to break out of that mindset and appreciate them for who they are and what they feel. We need to be more “person-centered” - we need to love relentlessly, and believe in them, know that they are just like us - “unique”!
I have personally met Some of these wonderful human beings and each of them on many different occasions, from India to UK to the USA, from Georgia to California, had one thing to say ...
“we see, hear, feel and experience everything - even the words you don't speak out loud” !
Let that sink in - I can personally attest to this too, because, my daughter picks up on my thoughts and feelings even if I haven’t expressed it to her or anyone in the home. I used to chalk it up to “chance” or my “fantasizing nature”, but I learned from some of her other neurodiverse peers that there was a lot more than chance or fantasy at work. Again, this was validated by another young man, much like my daughter, Matteo, whom I met during my quest to find out how to communicate better with my neurodiverse peers. During our conversation about nonverbal autists being able to communicate with each other, he reached out to his communication partner and had them facilitate the message he spelt out “we don’t need words ... we read energy“.
So, the next time you see someone having a meltdown, someone injuring themselves, someone lashing out and hitting, someone just completely zoned out and withdrawn, someone totally shutting you down, someone rocking back and forth, Someone saying things incessantly, someone going on about the sane thing again and again;
STOP, Catch your automatic thought of judgement,
Try to figure out what they are trying to say, because all “Behavior is communication”;
Get in the present moment with them, and mindfully validate their thought, worry, angst, presence by reaching out with compassion!
Wouldn’t you want to be treated the same way ? This is PRAGNYA and when you gain this PRAGNYA, you become an Ally !
The below movie is a response of a group of Neurodiverse young people who do not use verbal spoken language to communicate to a recent movie made by a famed musician Sia, called Music that has been nominated for the Golden Globe awards. The movie chronicles the life of a nonspeaking autist, however, does not feature any autistic or neurodiverse individuals in its making, cast or presentation. It is really sad that the feedback and input of those from the neurodiverse community, about the picturization of one of their own is not taken into consideration. A PRAGNYA Ally wrote to me today, distraught over this issue, wondering how she can make a difference and this is what prompted this post. On behalf of all the people in this video, and many of their neurodiverse peers and my own neurodiverse princess, I want to ask everyone reading this - educator, caregiver, parent, family member, friend, film fraternity, employers, legislators, society in general, "Treat them like they count too ....they do, don't they ? "