One of the biggest things we focus on here on the rooftop is communication. All of my kids have some struggles with communication. They all struggle in different ways with different things. Communication is such a huge part of having a good quality of life so I work really hard on identifying how each kids currently communicates and what we can do to get them communicating to each of their maximum potentials. We face a lot of challenges with working on communication but we’ve also seen some progress in this important area. SCH is working on building a therapy program up that would include speech therapy in addition to physical and occupational therapy. I’m really looking forward to this as it will take some of the pressure off me to come up with therapy plans and implement them!
A major struggle with communication is that many of my kids don’t understand the basics of communication. Babies learn that when they cry their caregivers will react and give them a bottle, comfort them, give the something to play with, etc. Because of their neglect during early years they never learned this basic concept. I’ve been working with my caregivers to have them attempt to figure out why their child is crying or upset and address that need right away. This is especially important for my non-verbal children. I’m hoping that if we work on constantly meeting their needs that we can help with this basic building block and help with their communication
Another struggle is that my kids are spoken to in two different languages. I speak to them mainly in English (I’m in Telugu lessons right now but languages are not my thing!) and my Indian staff speak to them in Telugu. I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not it is a good idea to have them learning two languages but ultimately I’ve decided that it’s fine. Kids who know two languages tend to be smarter plus if they get adopted it will probably be to a English speaking country so knowing English would be beneficial to them. I think it confuses them a bit right now but in the long run it’s beneficial.
One of the biggest parts of teaching them to communicate is figuring out what motivates each child. For kids like Julie and Caden it’s easy to figure out motivators. For my less expressive children- like Thomas and Katherine, I struggle with trying to find things that they really like. With Penny the problem is that she loves everything so even if I take away one motivator she is content to just look at something else and is not interested in getting the object back. Working to identify each individual child’s motivators has been a tough but we’re making some progress in figuring out what exactly is motivating for each child!
For each child I’ve done a short snippet on where they are communication wise and what we are currently doing. If anyone has any advice or tips please feel free to share them with me!
Caden: Caden’s speech is a little bit delayed but I think it’s more related to the fact that he is learning 2 languages! His only actual word is mom in both English and Telugu. He does babble a fair amount though and is pretty close to saying ball. His receptive is much better than his expressive- he will clap his hands or do prayer hands when asked. I think with some time he will be fine language wise and right now we just work on reading books together and playing games.
Katherine: Most times when I tell people that Katherine is deaf-blind one of the first questions I get is how we communicate with her. I’ve been using an object schedule with her with varying levels of success. She seems to react negatively to the ball that symbolizes physical therapy but every other part of the schedule she seems neutral to. The only real motivator I can find for her is food so we attempt to incorporate that into our therapy times. Of course our whole communication system with her will change once she gets her cochlear implant and has it activated! Right now we’re just working on some pre-communication skills. I will swing with her and when I stop I make her sign more before I start again. I do this too sometimes with snacks. I’m trying to prepare her for the idea of communicating for when she starts using her cochlear implants!
Thomas: Thomas is the kid I struggle the most with in this area. I have not really identified any motivators for him and his physical limitations keep him from using a switch. I’ve been working on some pre-communication stuff as well with him but I’m not really sure where to go from here.
Penny: Penny’s communication goals have switched over to primarily ASL once I found out she was profoundly deaf. At first I was trying to get her to sign “more” but now I’ve decided that might be too abstract and have decided to concentrate on “water” and “ball”. Signing has not clicked for her but I feel once she gets one sign and it clicks that more will follow. I’m also considering starting a modified PECs system pairing the sign with the picture. I still need to do more research and figure out what the best approach is for her. Right now I don’t think we are going to pursue a cochlear implant but I might reevaluate that decision once we get Katherine’s.
Valor: Valor has made some great progress recently that I’ve shared in previous blog posts! He is using a two-sided programmable switch. He has used it several times to request “more” when swinging or licking a lollipop. He’s not consistent with it so we are continuing to work every day on just using the switch. I’m also trying to figure out the best possible way to position the switch so Valor knows where it is and can consistently access it. Some days his arms are tight and some days he has more movement. Positioning it is hard especially because one of his motivators is swinging in the hammock! I’m hoping to continue to using his switch throughout the day and in different situations and once he uses it consistently seeing what the next step is.
Julie: Our biggest language struggle with Julie is that she is so darn stubborn! She knows the answers but she will say something else. For example if I ask her what color something is she will say “book”. I’ve heard her answer correctly before so I know she knows the basic colors! Her Telugu is better than her English but she still purposefully answers wrong in Telugu too! We work on correctly answering questions and increasing her vocabulary. Her expressive and receptive skills are both delayed for her age so we continue to work on doing activities to build both of them up!
Darren: Darren’s language skills are probably the most appropriate for his age out of all my kids. He does have a bit of a stutter which is cute now but probably needs to be addressed in the future!
With so many varied communication issues in my home it can all be a bit overwhelming at times! I try to incorporate communication into the kids days and we’ve been able to really concentrate on it during preschool time. As we get speech therapists working with my kids I will be able to pass off more of it to the therapists and just reinforce it throughout the day. If anyone would like more information about our emerging rehab program please let me know! We are looking for clinics, foundations, or individuals who would be willing to help sponsor this new program that will be so beneficial to the children we take care of.