Posts Tagged ‘sign language’


Chloe and I had our first screaming fight today.

Well, she was screaming. I was watching.

And, ok, it wasn’t the first, but it was the loudest to date.

She’s not feeling well. She had a cold this weekend and stayed home from school today to recover. She sorta went back and forth from feeling good and trying to dance to just feeling crummy and lying down.

Towards the end of the day when we were returning from picking up the boys from school, she was tired. And grumpy. (I’m not talking about her behind her back or saying anything she’s unaware of — she admitted to being grumpy. I mean, who could’ve denied it after the way she acted….)

She had asked me if she could have a turn with my phone. On the way to the boys’ school, I told her she had to wait until we got the boys just in case one of them called me for some reason. I needed to keep my phone.

Well, as sometimes happens, I forgot to let her have her turn with my phone after we got the boys.

So as we pulled in the driveway back home, she quite nastily demanded the use of my phone. I turned around and gave her the look. But the look didn’t have an effect on her. She just screamed again, “Phone! Phone! Phone! Phone! Phone!” signing phone as she swung her head back and forth.

I just watched in amazement, which was not the response she was looking for. So she took it up a notch. She slapped her arms to her sides and let out a holler.

My eyes just got bigger as I watched her from the front seat while the two of us sat in the van in the garage.

You have to understand that this girl went a big chunk of years showing no emotion; and even more years than that feeling the emotion but not knowing how to express it. But this screaming fit I was witnessing was an example of very well-expressed emotion. And it actually thrills me inside. When you have a child who is stuck in their body, unable to express themselves, and then they learn to emerge and express some emotion and communicate their feelings, it is truly amazing to watch.

That’s what was happening.

“Wow!” I said. “Are you being silly or are you grumpy?” I asked her, pretty surprised at her little show.

“No!!!” she screamed.

I asked again, “No, seriously. Are you grumpy?”

She growled and signed grumpy.

I strongly agreed with her that she was, indeed, grumpy and told her she could have a turn with my phone when we got in the house. But the promise of pleasure deferred wasn’t good enough for Little Miss Grumpy. Sitting in her carseat, she slapped her arms, threw her head all about, and screamed in a mocking way all sorts of nasty words, I’m sure. I just stood out of arms’ reach and watched her.

Knowing it usually helps to put words to her emotion, I explained the situation. “Ok! You’ve made your point! You’re frustrated that you had to wait, and I made it worse by talking to you about it, and now you’re really mad. Will you stop already??”

When she assured me that she was done with her fit, I moved in to help her get out of the car. But she wasn’t done with me. Her arms went to flapping, and her words went to flying, and I went to dodging and stifling laughter. She was really in a tizzy.

When I finally thought I was safe from the fit, I succeeded in helping her from the car and back into the house where she got a turn with the phone after a heart-felt apology.

What??!! Giving into her after throwing such a nasty fit?? Really. I mean, seriously, how could anyone turn down her request after that 5-star performance!?

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For those who don’t know, Chloe, my youngest is mostly nonverbal — meaning she doesn’t use spoken language to communicate usually. Instead, she uses sign language, gestures, a communication device, and any other means she comes up with to get her point across.

She’s brilliant. While you and I and the rest of my family easily form the words, create the sentences and spurt it effortlessly out of our mouths, Chloe has to create a way to communicate with the person she’s trying to reach. And she amazes me.

I told you last week about her bargaining for more pudding. Well, she continues to make strides in her communication. These strides come slowly usually since she’s so laid back — usually a good trait, but for her it sorta cheats her out of communication since she’d usually rather just do without than to put forth the effort.

But yesterday before school she made me smile with her communication efforts again. She ate breakfast very very slowly. She was sleepy and moved in slow motion all morning. The result — no time for pudding after breakfast. (What??!! You don’t give pudding as a breakfast dessert to your kids?? Poor things!)

When she asked for pudding after breakfast, I told her that no, there was no time for pudding. And instead of just accepting my answer or throwing something or any number of responses, she said, “Yes! Pudding!”

Oh. my. gosh. She’s arguing with me now! Classic! Am I the first mom of an 11-year-old girl who celebrated the fact that my daughter was arguing with me?

Then this morning … Hmmmmm. Just realizing all of this communication is centered around food — particularly pudding. Seems it’s quite the incentive currently!

This morning, I offered Chloe a pudding that I opened last night. Since it was open, I put it in the fridge overnight. Chloe isn’t accustomed to cold pudding so we discussed the temperature of the pudding while she gulped it down. When it was gone, she signed and vocalized, “More cold pudding.”

Yep, she just communicated a whole sentence, a very direct and specific request, included an adjective, and didn’t say please!!

I love it!

I love my girl!

Reading the Letters

Chloe and Zippy recently went to the eye doctor.  Both have terrible eyesight, and both have had 3 strabismus surgeries on their eyes.  They’ve both worn glasses since before they were 1 year old.  They both have frequent eye doctor appointments.

Both kids got great reports this go-round.  Zach’s script hasn’t changed much, and he doesn’t need new glasses.  Chloe’s script hasn’t changed too terribly much either, but she did require new glasses.

I’m going to attempt to do the math here a minute:  Zach is 10.  Let’s see, he started going to the eye doctor right at 1 year old, I think.  So he’s been going to the eye doctor every 3 months for about 9 years.  Chloe is 9 1/2.  She’s been going every 3 months for a little more than 9 years since she started younger than Zach.  That’s approximately 9X3 plus 9X3 minus a few for those times it was maybe 5 months instead the scheduled 3  plus a few for those back to back follow up appointments after surgeries plus one for the Desitin-in-the-eye incident . . . .  I must have been at the eye doctor approximately 50 times with those two in the last 9 years.  Is that right?  50 doesn’t sound that drastic, actually. . . .

Anyway, the point of the math is this:  the eye doctor said to both of those kiddos this time, “See you in 12 months!”  Yippee!  I nearly hugged the man!  I gave High Fives all around, for sure!  Neither of them have to go back for 12 months!  Awesome!  I love it when a specialist says that!  (Now what will we do with all of our time?)

The story I actually wanted to share though was another sweet, on-the-ball moment with Elliot.  Elliot, as he has to do so many times, accompanied us to the eye doctor.

Chloe went first for the eye exam.  The assistant shone a light in Chloe’s eyes, did some measurements, used some little prisms, etc., and then said she was done with her.  Chloe got out of the big chair, and Zippy took her place.  As Zippy’s exam began, Elliot asked, “Does Chloe not do the letters?”

“No,” I answered without even thinking about the question.

“Why not?” Elliot wanted to know.

And then I stopped.  “Well, I don’t know.  She just never has.”

The assistant looked up from what she was doing.  “Does she know her letters?” she asked.

“Yes, she does,” Elliot and I answered together.

It was as if a light bulb had flashed in the room.  The assistant asked Chloe to come back to the chair.

I covered one of Chloe’s eyes while the assistant went across the room and pointed to a row of letters.  Since Chloe had just seen Zachary say the letters to the woman, and assuming that the lady didn’t know sign language, Chloe attempted to say the letters, too.  But none of us could understand for sure which letter she was saying.

Each time, I acknowledged her attempt at speech but also asked her to sign the letter.  And she did.

“H,” Chloe signed.



“E,” she continued, getting them all correct.

I couldn’t quit smiling.  And Elliot was excited, too.  The assistant was impressed.

And just like that, now Chloe does the letters at the eye doctor.

Elliot, indeed, continues to be a good advocate and thoughtful sibling for Chloe.  How long would it have taken us to finally have Chloe read the letter chart?  <sigh>

It certainly takes a village . . . .

A Little Fireworks Show

Chloe loves fireworks.

Usually on the 4th of July, our family goes to the lake where my parents have a great spot on a great lake.  And at the end of the day we sit out at the edge of the lake and watch a great fireworks show right over the water.  Adding to the excitement for the kids are the little sideshows going on in neighbors’ yards on either side of us and in nearly any direction you look.

Our oohs and aahs and patriotic songs add to the fun and excitement.

Chloe sits on Paul’s lap or my lap and growls and kicks and giggles through the whole show.  She loves it.  She even enjoys the loudness, as its sounds surprise her and make her “laugh.”

This year we didn’t go to the lake for the 4th.  We stayed home and had some family over for dinner and a wii party/baseball tournament.  It was a fun time.

Afterwards, we put the boys to bed a little early.  And as I was taking Chloe back to her room for pjs, we heard the first explosion outside.  Chloe froze, and her eyes got big.  I knew that she knew what it was.

“What was that?” I asked her.

She vocalized a 2-syllable word and made her sign for fireworks:  pointer finger going up and up and up and then both hands spreading all 10 fingers out and down in an awesome explosion in the sky.  Then she eagerly pointed to the door.

At first I said no and told her it was time for bed.  But I quickly caved in, knowing how much she LOVES to watch fireworks.  We headed out the front door.

Right across the street from us is a little lake.  (Some argue that it’s just a pond, but we strongly maintain it’s a lake!)  Chloe and I sat on a bench in the dark and waited to see if we would spot any fireworks.

After a minute or two, she again signed “fireworks,” wondering where they were.  I just shrugged.

But then, we weren’t disappointed as we spotted a few bursts of color right over the trees.

A bit later a group of people were shooting off some fireworks right down beside our lake.  Those were especially loud and big and exciting.

After watching a few small shows in different directions for about an hour, we went back inside to spray our mosquito bites and go to bed.

It was one of those times when I knew I had done the right thing letting her stay up — because that night after her usual bedtime, we made a lovely memory together as we sat outside and watched the fireworks.

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.

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