I've stolen this title from my own book. The chapter in Connections: A Journey of Love and Autism ( available on Amazon in English and Spanish.)
I was thinking tonight about this chapter in my book where I tell the story of my daughter as a baby, and how I would nightly tell her to look at the moon. It wasn't until years later that she repeated these sweet words back to me, but it signaled me to understand completely that she had been listening to me throughout those years. She understood everything but could not express it herself until years later.
This story comes to mind to me quite often as I remember that wherever I am, whatever I say, my daughter with Autism, as well as my little students with special needs are always listening, even though they often cannot respond .
If you think about it, as a parent or teacher, this is a huge responsibility to caution our words, but also it is a freedom, in that I am not shielding my daughter, but instead I am able to share with her in conversation.
It is frustrating for both the parent and the child to have what seems like a one-sided conversation at times, but indeed it is not one-sided at all. It is reciprocal in the one person speaks, and the other listens. The response may be silent, but it is still there.
It takes a different mind-set, as well as purposeful communication but it is the right thing, and it feels better to do it this way. For example, If I look at my now nineteen year old daughter, and I tell her that my feet are tired, and I can't wait to take off these shoes, or my friend is coming into town, and I am excited, but while I tell her these random thoughts, I look at her, and speak to her, directly, the outcome is listening. She may not respond, and mostly won't but there are glimpses and eye contact, and I feel an appreciation for giving her the direct contact.
Adults often talk over children when needed, and young children will go on their way and do their own thing, but our children of special needs that are in our presence for most of their lives, including young adulthood, will definitely be left out and feel discounted if we do not speak to them with dignity and respect. The Autism or autistic behaviors will not magically disappear, but the companionship, and feeling of belonging will increase, which I believe will help reduce those behaviors. Look at the moon Mommy, was the sweetest verbal response I ever heard from my young girl, but the lesson learned that she was listening was the most important. # Assumecomptency