Non-Verbal Communication

Amanda O'Neill by Amanda O'Neill Additional Needs

Amanda O'Neill

Amanda O'Neill

I’m Amanda, I’m 25 and mummy to my little angel Ryan who has quadriplegic dystonic cerebral palsy. I never knew in life what i wanted to be when I...

When pregnant, as a mother you get excited for your baby coming. You imagine what life will be like.

You cannot wait to see what they will look like and what their personality will be like.

Somebody always says “I wonder if their first word will be mum or dad” and you joke along with them about how after 9 months of carrying them you hope it’s mum.

You never for one minute imagine that they will never be able to speak. Nobody prepares you for life not to work out that way.

Does every child not meet the milestones that all these new parent apps talk about? All babies should have said their first word by the age of 9 months, right?

My son Ryan is non-verbal.

He has never spoke a word and I have never had the pleasure of hearing him shout mum or dad. Ryan has cerebral palsy - that means that he finds it hard to coordinate the muscles around his mouth and tongue, enough to produce speech.

As his mum, I am very realistic of what kind of lifestyle is ahead of Ryan and I have come to terms with the fact he won't be able to speak. That being said, if I had the chance to give him the opportunity of anything it would be the ability to talk.

I would want nothing more than to say to him I love him and to hear his precious voice say it back.

At the beginning I was terrified at how we would communicate with Ryan.

How would I ever know what he wants? What if I got what he was trying to say wrong? How would he be able to make his needs shown when he was not with me or his dad?

3 years on and that fear does not exist. Ryan has no control over hand movements so Makaton sign language was not an option for him to use as a way of communicating back to us.

Ryan now communicates through facial expressions, body language and he vocalises with shouting. There is nothing more heart-warming than walking into a room saying “HI” to Ryan and for him to give you the biggest smile back.

That is Ryan’s way of letting you know he is pleased to see you.

Ryan has the cheekiest personality. After he has an appointment with one of his therapists, he smiles and laughs when they get their stuff together and that is his way of letting them know he is happy to see them leave.

When Ryan is not feeling right or well in himself his body tone goes high and rigid and he begins to get frustrated that indicates that he is upset or uncomfortable.

This sometimes can be frustrating as a parent as he doesn’t have the ability like a child who can speak to tell what is exactly wrong. This means we go through the process of making sure he is clean and dry, repositioning him or changing whatever activity he is doing at the time.

We don’t always get what he needs correct straight away but throughout the years we learn with experience.

At times it has been hard and I had felt as though I had lost faith when I found out that Ryan wouldn’t be able to speak or communicate with us.

But now, seeing how far my little boy has come along and how he tries to let us know how he feels and what he wants through other means of communication, I am proud of the little fighter he has become.


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