By Kelly Wilton
My son, Mikey, is quite the chatterbox, yet for all intents and purposes he is still labeled ‘as non verbal’. I guess when it comes to the technical definition of verbalisation, he is unable to express himself the way a typical person can. Instead, he uses a combination of single words, gestures, sign language and PECs.
The other day I had a most interesting call from his school. A teacher was very concerned that Mikey’s behaviour had started to change in the afternoons – lashing out and being very ‘hands on’ which is out of character for him.
Um well, I had to ‘fess up to her. It wasn’t out of character – he was actually in character. You see, he thinks he’s Batman. He’s obsessed with Batman. Everything is Batman. He loves Batman! He breaks out his Batman moves but unfortunately he doesn’t realise the strength in his little body and the ‘lashing out’ is actually his Batman moves which quite rightly, look like he is going head to head with a Batman nemisis! Unfortunately, in the absence of a Batman villain, it’s another child or teacher in the playground that cops it.
My conversation with Mikey that night went something along the lines of – ‘mate, I’m sorry to tell you but you are not Batman. Mikey looked at me with his little furrowed brow and said ‘uhhh??’. I continued, ‘You are Mikey and you can play Batman, but you are not Batman. There is only one Batman’.
He seemed happy with that response. We practiced ‘gentle hands’ and I told him about keeping hands to himself when he’s at school. Maybe we will stick to the trikes at school instead, where you can play cars, I suggested. Ok, he nodded.
The next day. I had a follow up report from the teacher to say that our little Batman had a wonderful day playing different games, engaging as Mikey and leaving his alter ego of Batman at home!
The thing with my non-verbal little boy is that although he can’t use all the words to express himself, he can and does find other ways to communicate and he understands so much. To engage with him, and others like him, takes a skill that most of us possess but don’t realise.
It is the skill of understanding that language is not the be-all and end-all. That just because you speak the loudest, doesn’t make you right, or important.
In fact, words are frequently over-used and can often be misleading. When I slow down and engage with someone who doesn’t verbalise as much as myself, I realise that the message I receive is clear and to the point.
I don’t have to overthink it, I just need to embrace it.
Besides, Batman barely talks yet he conveys his message extremely well, doesn’t he?