A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that since starting hyperbaric oxygen therapy in late August, Skylar has begun verbalizing thoughts to us in a way she NEVER has before. Skylar was diagnosed with Autism over 9 years ago and although she is verbal, most of our “conversations” include movie lines, song lyrics, requests for food, and her pleas to return to Disneyworld as soon as humanly possible. I am so thankful that Skylar is as verbal as she is. I’m forever gratelful that I know my sweet girl’s voice and that I’ve been blessed to hear her say “I love you mommy” many times. But like many parents of children with some type of communicative disorder, I long for the day that Skylar can clearly tell me what she is thinking and why she does some of the things she does. A few weeks ago, we got a taste of what that can be like.
I was getting ready to go run some errands and wanted to give Skylar a few instructions before I left. Skylar, like many children on the autism spectrum, has difficulty making eye contact. I always try to get her to look at me when I’m giving her directions. I thought if she did that, then she was listening to me. As I was trying to talk to her I noticed that she was looking off to the side and not directly at me. I said “Skylar, I’m about to go run some errands and I need you to look at me so I know that you are listening.” I’ll NEVER forget what happened next! Skylar turned and looked at me and Chris and said:
“It’s hard for me to look at you AND listen. It is just so hard for me to do both at the same time. So even though I may not look at you a lot, I’m ALWAYS listening!”
My mouth dropped. I was speechless (trust me, this is not the norm for me). All Chris could say was “Holy Crap!” Skylar has not said anything like this EVER!
These 3 sentences have completely changed the way that I communicate with my daughter! I no longer tell her that she HAS to look me in the eye. Clearly she doesn’t need to be doing that to hear what I’m saying. It has opened my eyes to the fact that I need to communicate with her in a way that is not overwhelming to her. It doesn’t matter what I “thought” was helping. When I’m talking to her I now say “Skylar, I need to talk to you, are you listening to me?”
We have always been very careful how we talk about Skylar and about Autism in front of her. If there has ever been a time that we needed to discuss delicate matters regarding her, we have made sure that we do it in total privacy. I have always believed that Skylar hears everything and her comment “I’m ALWAYS listening!” just confirms that to me.
I’m looking forward to more insight from Skylar as time goes on. I love that she was able to communicate to me in a way that she has never done before. I was so thankful for that brief exchange in my kitchen a few short weeks ago. It has given me great hope!
Blessings to you!