The Sound of Silence

FROM SIMONE – We live in a language world. People use language as the main means of communication and expression but they tend to forget it is not the only means of communication, in fact if your child does not speak very much they will be picking up in all sorts of messages from you and language won’t be the main focus for them.

In my more autistic days I paid more attention to the tone of voice than what was being said, to the colours more than the patterns, to the detail rather than the whole. My son pays more attention to rhythm than to melody, to things that are the same rather than things that are different.

To observe what means of communication are attractive to your child is crucial to communicating with them just like for example you would make a list of their motivations such as in Thomas the Tank Engine, Teletubbies, Ben 10 or Dora the Explorer, in our Program we also include in the list of motivations which ways of expressing yourself reach him more clearly so we observe, observe and observe.

The best time to observe is when they are isming because that is the activity of their choice. My son is definitely into rhythm, he bounces on the gym balls, on the trampoline, he drums on things, he is attracted to rhythm, so when introducing something new like a book we introduced a book with a text that rhymed as it has a rhythm and all of a sudden he went from not being interested in books to loving them. When playing with pictures we sing songs about them, we make an improvised rap about them, when playing with bubbles we pop them in a rhythm.

Sometimes less is more, we tend to think that because my child doesn’t have much language I will talk and talk so that hopefully he or she will pick it up on the process and we leave no room for them to speak. When I am training new volunteers and I tell them about the 3E’s, the first thing they do is jump in front of my child talking really loud. If language is really meaningful to you and I am asking you to be really expressive then it does make sense you will use language in a loud way. If on the other hand language is not a motivation for your child but rather a challenge, having your challenge screamed out on your face is not going to be very attractive at all.

What I do is I ask my volunteers to imagine they are actors in a silent movie and they need to present a book for my child, for example, without using any words. It is amazing how people with previously no expression on their faces or no movement on their bodies will become very expressive and interesting once you ask them to be silent. In 100% of the cases my child will pay much more attention to them then when they set out screaming at him.

I have just made an experiment that is going really well. I have hired a Brazilian volunteer (I am Brazilian myself) who can not speak English very well but she is an actress and circus performer. Because she can’t rely on language much she is extremely expressive with her body movements and facial expressions and she uses only the focus words and sentences we are working on leaving plenty of space for my son to speak. It is amazing how my son is glued on her 100% of the time, maximum eye contact as her face is “speaking” to him all the time, maximum attention span and he is not missing out on language at all as she leaves him plenty of room to try it out. Obviously I need to be able to train her so I wouldn’t hire someone who can’t speak English if I wouldn’t be able to speak their language but it has been a very interesting experiment which has definitely proven to me that words are not everything.

<3 o/ <3

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