The Beauty of Communication: Special Needs Parenting

Rebecca Toal by Rebecca Toal Additional Needs

Rebecca Toal

Rebecca Toal

Blessed, busy mum to four beautiful girls, the youngest with complex special needs due to extreme prematurity. We are always looking for ways to ma...

I’ve come to appreciate just how vital communication is.

My little girl has always had a very tough time communicating.

That being said, she has come SO far in her four years and we couldn’t be prouder of her!

Brielle is deaf and wears cochlear implants, she is mostly blind too.

She doesn’t talk and vocalises very little. However, she is learning how to sign in response to hearing us, and uses some tactile sign and gestures.

It has been so exciting to see her little-self develop…she recently started initiating conversation, or asking for things, by doing a simple sign.

For instance, she hears the water running at the sink and she’ll do the sign for “wash hands” or she is feeling hungry and she’ll sign “eat” and head towards the kitchen.

Many people speculate on whether she will ever talk.

We’ve worked with our fair share of speech and language therapists, audiologists and teachers of the deaf, both in the US and the UK.

Many keep pushing for vocalising and speech.

But you know what?

It really does not bother me if Brielle ever talks.

As long as she can communicate effectively, which I have a feeling will be in sign language, probably mainly tactile sign.

My desire for her is to be heard and understood and to receive information in a way that makes sense to her.

Yes, it would be great if she wants to keep using her cochlear implants to gain access to sound and speech.

And understand speech as much as she is able.

But when she is older, if she decides not to use her implants, and wants to rely wholly on sign, well that is her choice to make.

There is much more to communication than speech.

I’ve realized that Brielle is a unique being with her own personality and preferences, she cannot be figuratively “put in a box” – although she loves to be put in a box to play!

Sometimes I must admit, I do long for her to open up her little mouth and let out some sounds, attempt a wee word! But I don’t have my heart set on it.

I’m content in knowing that she will show us what is right for her, in her own time, on her own terms. We just have to provide her with the best possible tools and opportunities to learn, and reach her full potential.

I never knew before Brielle came into our lives just how beautiful communication can be.

But I know how difficult it can be too. I’ve felt the pain of having very little communication from her.

She was so sick for her first two years really.

She didn’t move much, she hardly cried, she couldn’t hear us or understand sign language, she didn’t show much response to us or our attempts at communication.

Now she is a different girl.

Her personality is shining through, she shows so much emotion, she is affectionate, cuddly and clingy even.

She smiles and laughs (albeit a rather silent laugh), she cries quietly and moans, she sometimes lets out little shouts and noises in excitement.

She communicates with her facial expressions and eyes.

She is learning to ask for things in sign language.

She is learning to listen with her implants and with her hands.

And above all, LOVE is our main mode of communicating.


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