Word Up!

When Wil tries to figure something out, he has a back-and-forth conversation with himself: “Wear the grey shirt? Yes, yes, the grey shirt.” This will go on for his hat and shorts, too; and with most any task that requires decision-making.

He’s been having these conversations for about 5 years now. At first, I was concerned. He didn’t talk to himself, then all of a sudden he did — all the time. I worried these conversations developed because his peer group didn’t speak at his speed, and this was a coping mechanism to keep himself company. I did, however, enjoy hearing his thoughts, as he wasn’t always able to communicate them to me. And when he got stuck on something, I knew why.

Raising a child with a disability, you grow accustomed to digging into behaviors. Behavior is communication, but when your child isn’t capable of communicating, you put on your Sherlock cap and get to work. At first it’s something you figure out, then it becomes part of your everyday lifestyle. You don’t even realize you are doing it.

If Katherine or Elizabeth started talking to themselves, I wouldn’t think anything of it. I talk to myself out loud sometimes. It helps to clarify thoughts. And come to find out, that’s exactly what Wil was doing. But I didn’t see it because I’m always looking deeper than surface level, and not even realizing it. Wil doesn’t have the social filter that Katherine Elizabeth and I do in this area. To him, he’s simply making decisions out loud with no concern about who is listening.

Looking further into this behavior, I discovered it’s very common in people with Down syndrome, and can carry into adulthood. Now that Wil has been doing it for some time, I don’t even notice it as different anymore — because it’s not.

Today was a fun leap in Wil’s personal conversation. When he has his hands full getting out of the car, he’ll say, “Mom, I can’t do it, I don’t have enough hands!” (Don’t I know the feeling!). I’ll reply: “Sure you can!” And give him a few tips, such as tucking things under his arms, or making two trips — but who does that? Then I leave him to it. Some days he gets frustrated and sits in the car, and some days he takes my suggestions right away. Either way, he figures it out.

Today, Wil tried to get out of the car with a stack of CDs and his water bottle. Rather than addressing me this time, he said to himself: “I can’t do it, I don’t have enough hands!” Then he replied to himself, “Sure you can!”

He grabbed his CDs in a stack, opened the car door with his other hand, then got his water bottle, and bumped the door shut with his hip.

Now you’re talking, Wil! 😀

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