Tell Me All About It

Having a nonverbal child is challenging.  It is frustrating.  It is sometimes heartbreaking.  It is sometimes inconvenient.  It is sometimes helpless.  Having a nonverbal child is tricky and makes a mama guess and then second-guess at the needs of her child.

I know there are many times when I misinterpret what Chloe is trying to tell me.  She will try a couple of times to say something to me, but if I don’t get it right away, then she’ll oftentimes just gives up.

Does it frustrate her?

Does it make her feel alone when she can’t make herself understood?

Chloe knows many signs and uses sign language to communicate.  But mostly she signs only one word or two words even when she’s telling a story or saying several sentences.  When she does, it is up to me to add all the missing parts and speak out loud what it is she’s trying to say.  I think I’m right most of the time.  But sometimes I don’t have a clue what she’s talking about.

And she doesn’t use sign language to express feelings at all — just the facts.

Chloe has only recently gained the ability to cry when she’s in pain.  Even now, the only pain or discomfort that will actually cause a cry is something like a hard hit to the head or a pinched finger in a door.  Although, two different times this summer she sat too close to a fire ant mound and got lots of bites; she never made a sound, reached for the bites or moved a muscle.  So I never know if she has a headache or a tummy ache or a muscle soreness.  I never know if she just doesn’t feel well.  I mean, I can guess that she doesn’t feel well if she’s lying around more than usual.  She will every now and then want to cuddle when she doesn’t feel well.  But mostly, I am left guessing about whether she’s hurt or sick.

Yesterday, her teacher wrote a note in her binder that Chloe “was different” in class. And she didn’t participate like she normally does.  Even the bus driver said maybe Chloe didn’t feel well — she was different on the bus.  Then last night when my friend babysat her, the report was the same.  We all watch her and try to interpret the signs.  Is she not well?  Is she just overly tired?  Is she bored or just feeling lazy?

I went ahead and sent her to school this morning.  The frustrating thing is that the mornings are so quick and busy that I don’t get to “watch” her like I need to in order to see all the signs.  I sent her to school today not knowing for sure that she felt like going.  I wrote a note to her teacher asking her to call me if Chloe doesn’t perk up.  If she doesn’t feel well, then she needs to be at home with Mom.

Certainly times like today, I wish she could talk to me and tell me how she’s doing.  I want to ask her how she is and then hear her sweet voice respond.

But instead when I held her little face in my hands this morning and said, “Tell me all about it. . . ,” she just looked at me with her beautiful blue eyes and stayed silent.


12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by dad on November 5, 2009 at 11:03 AM

    I love you. I know it’s difficult at times for you, and I really don’t know how I could ever carry the load you have some days …but I do know this: our GOD is able, and HE knew from the beginning of time that you were the “mom of the year” that that sweet child would need. Have a great day…this is the day the LORD has made just for you ..may HIS arms hold you close today.

    your dad, and proud of it !!


  2. Hi Kelly,

    Just stopped by to catch up on your blog because I haven’t had a chance the last few days. Thanks for this beautiful and moving post. From now on I firmly resolve not to grumble when my kids won’t shut up. The alternative must be so much harder. Hang in there!



  3. Posted by Sue in Grapevine on November 6, 2009 at 12:13 PM

    You must be staying very close to God; otherwise you would not be able to be your cheerful, fun self.
    I admire your ability to go thru life w/out playing the “victim, oh-woe-is-me” card. You have been dealt a hand that others could not or would not play – they would fold or try to cheat. I’m glad that you choose to stay in the game of life.
    I pray that a way will be found for you to see into the heart of your darling daughter. I know that you would be grateful for even a glimpse.
    I have not appreciated my own children enough, but I hope to learn to be more grateful. You will help me. (I hope that doesn’t sound patronizing or in any way negative.)
    Loads of love from,


  4. Posted by Tia Sheldon on November 7, 2009 at 10:09 AM

    Kelly, I do remember when the girls were babies feeling so frustrated when they cried because they couldn’t tell me what was wrong. But at least they cried to tell me there was a problem. I know that these days my frustratration is knowing how sick they are, if they need to go to the doctor or is it a passing growing pain or a normal morning sore throat that will pass in an hour. But at least I can ask my “on a scale of 1 to 10” question about the pain and get an answer. I cannot imagine the level of frustration and self-questioning you feel every day trying to anticipate Chloe’s needs when she can’t tell you. I will pray for God to give you wisdom about your children’s needs and provide insights beyond our human understanding.


    • Thanks, Tia! God does give me wisdom, I think, for knowing most of Chloe needs / words. But thanks for the prayers, too! I’ll take all I can get!


  5. […] Special needs, speech therapy. Leave a Comment I’ve discussed here before some of the difficulties of having a nonverbal child.  It is especially difficult trying to figure out if the child is not feeling well, in pain, […]


  6. […] discussed here before some of the difficulties of having a nonverbal child.  It is especially difficult trying to figure out if the child is not feeling well, in pain, […]


  7. […] before, this is their first go-round with the likes of Chloe.  And I’ve said here before how even I oftentimes am left guessing what Chloe is thinking and feeling.  But I think what happened at […]


  8. […] feel like I have posted this same “song” before.  Same song, SEVENTH verse!  But here it goes again . . […]


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