Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Frustration of a Non-Verbal Child

Tantrums. "Challenging" and even violent behavior. Shutting down to the point of complete withdrawal. These behaviors are considered so common among non-verbal children that they have actually become expected. I can't tell you how many times I've seen a parent in a forum ask about behaviors like these and receive answers like "oh, it happens" or "once he learns to talk, it will get better." But what if he never learns to talk? And what if, right now, even though he cannot talk, he has things to say?

It's not hard to see that the frustration of a non-verbal child comes from a very human need to be heard, to have their thoughts and desires matter. Put a piece of tape over your own mouth and consider how long it would take for you to feel angry enough to throw something, or isolated enough to give up on interaction all together.

Lately I've been witnessing some of this frustration in my own home. Elanor has become much more verbal in the last couple of months, and as a result she now tries to communicate first verbally and then by other means (another nail in the coffin of AAC inhibiting speech). This has led to some frustration for both of us, since we want so badly to understand each other the first time.

One morning last week Elanor came to me and with a big smile on her face said, "boo-bah, Mommy." I didn't understand so I asked her to repeat it. "Boo-bah, Mommy!" I still didn't understand, so she repeated again, "BOO-bah, MOMMY!" Several more times she repeated this, until her little eyes started to fill with tears and I felt like the absolute worst mother in the world. I brought her into the living room where her communication device sat on the coffee table. "Why don't you tell me on your talker?" I said, and I pulled out the camera.

Look at the relief on that child's face. Don't you wish that every non-verbal child had access to that kind of relief? I dream of a world where they do.


  1. That is amazing!! She is so smart!

  2. The "please" is awesome too! Great post, mama.

  3. That is a wonderful video.

    1. thank you! did you see the videos on the other posts?

  4. Yes, I went through your Youtube channel as well.