Saturday, January 9, 2010

Goo-bye silly goose! Love you too!!

That is the way Elizabeth says good bye over the phone. Even if she's leaving me a message, she always ends with, "Love you too!" Probably because I end my messages to her with, "Bye. Love you!" I can always understand the end of Elizabeth's messages. It's the beginning and the middle I can't decifer.

One topic that remains a constant in the life of a handicapped child is education. Parents will stand around for hours discussing teachers, IEP's, therapy, inclusion and all the factors that go into deciding their childs education. Every child is different, but with handicapped children, the diversities are even greater.

Elizabeth's education always included speech therapy. The para educators would spend hours each month, teaching her to look at people when she spoke. They used flash cards to practice pronouncing words correctly. Most of the time however, they just wanted her to talk! Say ANYTHING!

As a little girl, Elizabeth was Miss Chatty Kathy. She would talk to strangers in the store, shake hands with everyone at church. She was outgoing and friendly. The older she got, the more she began to realize people had a difficult time understanding her. She became embarrassed when we would ask her to repeat what she had just said. Rather than repeating herself or talking slower, she stopped talking completely. She became painfully shy and an introvert. Part of it may have been our fault. Because we spent so much time with her we could usually decifer what she was saying, so when she wouldn't repeat it, we would. We would get so uncomfortable waiting for her to talk, you know that awkward silence that just hangs there, screaming to be interrupted? We would blurt out her response! It got to the point where we were doing most of her talking for her. Boy, I wish I could go back and change that!

Entering high school didn't help either. The groups she hung out with as a little girl at church were getting into subjects and situations that Beth didn't fully understand. We didn't want her sitting in a Sunday school class where they talked about dating and social pressures when mentally she was only 10. So we made the decision to stop sending her to the activities. She made new friends in her special ed class at school, but due to her lack of communication, she didn't socialize outside of the classroom. (From what I was told, she didn't do much socializing inside the classroom either!)

When Beth turned 23, we let her have a TV in her room. If we had to do it again, I don't think I would give her one. She spends hours at her desk, writing in her notebooks and watching TV. While on vacations, we noticed she would begin to talk. Constantly. Without ever stopping. That's when we decided to have a few nights a week where we turn off the TV and play games, do projects. Sitting in front of the TV is okay s-o-m-e-t-i-m-e-s, but now we are trying to break bad habits that have become a way of life for her. As I'm typing this out it all sounds so, so... "Well duh!" but I really wish we had considered this years ago.

Her speech is improving, it's just that now we can't understand her. She speaks so fast I sincerely don't know what she says! And the cell phone is the worst. I have tried to show her how to move the mouth piece away from her nose and toward her chin, but she hasn't caught on yet, because all you hear is her breathing. :)

Well that and, "Goo-bye silly goose! Love you too!!"

1 comment:

Becca said...

I find this very interesting! I had been wondering recently how/why such engaging and outgoing children sometimes retreat. As a defense mechanism to people's reactions when they can't understand what's being said makes perfect sense. I have soooo much to learn.