More than a Paintbrush

Chloe proudly showing the paintbrush that she was given. The leaders let her keep it. And she is in love with it.

“How was your day?” a mom asks when her child climbs in the car after school.

“What did y’all do today?” Dad asks when he picks up his son from Sunday School.

“How was it?” a parent asks after practice or rehearsal.

These are the questions, answers, and conversations that many parents take for granted. They may grumble if their young son doesn’t give them the details they want to hear. But these are daily conversations between parent and child.

Unless your child is nonverbal. Many children have communication disorders that prevent this familiar conversation from happening. These families rely on teachers, siblings, aides, and friends to fill in the details and help with the conversation.

Chloe, my 16-year-old daughter, is mostly nonverbal. She uses some sign language, some verbalizations and gestures, and a communication device to communicate. But communication in general is very tricky and difficult for her. And questions like those above are met with a shrug. She’s never volunteered information from her day or from cheer practice or from church. The conversation and concept make for a complicated communication exchange. She’s learned to just shrug and shake her head. Hearing and understanding the question, thinking back over her school day and choosing something to talk about, forming those words, and then communicating it effectively… it’s a conversation tool she hasn’t mastered.

It might seem strange for a parent of a teenager to never know any details — even a general description— of ANY experience that teen has away from you. Thankfully there are willing people to at least answer general questions on her behalf.

But Chloe has never in her life told me about something she did while we were apart. Literally never. You just get used to it. Yes, you miss it. Sometimes you long for it. But it’s just part of it. It’s just your life.

Thats why it was a big deal this past week when Chloe used her communication device to say 2 words to me when I picked her up.

We were at family camp. After breakfast, the parents enjoyed a time of worship and teaching from 9 to noon while the youth had Bible story, music time, and art.

One day when we were reunited with Chloe after morning sessions, I heard her repeating something over and over on her communication device.

“Soft paintbrush… soft paintbrush… soft paintbrush…”

I acknowledged her words like I always do. I instinctively asked the helper who was with her for the week about the paintbrush, and she told me that, yes, the paintbrush was really soft… it was blue… it was really cool. And she said Chloe had enjoyed gently brushing her cheeks and lips with it.

It wasn’t until an hour or so later that I realized what had happened. This was a monumental moment! A moment to be remembered and celebrated! For the first time in her entire life, Chloe had told me about something she had experienced while she was away from me. She reported back to me. Something happened that had impacted her enough that she wanted to share it and talk about it. And she found the words and means to say it.

Mic drop. Unbelievable. Chills and tears.

What an amazing experience with my girl!

 

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One response to this post.

  1. Priceless. Thank you so much for taking the time to write. Your insight and emotion are priceless to our understanding. Reading about Chloe—her challenges and relationships—challenges me to be more Christlike.

    Reply

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