Monday, 30 May 2011

A Communication Breakthrough

People with autism rarely use communication to share experiences. Chrissy is no exception & bypassed the pointing-at-objects developmental stage. She has never drawn my attention to a new discovery she's made or engaged with me about something she's observed. Until yesterday.

On the drive home Chrissy spontaneously reached for her symbols book & began leafing through the pages. We use symbols alongside speech & basic signs to explain what's happening next but she has never used them to initiate any form of communication with us. Until now.

Chrissy smiled and made eye contact to get my attention then pointed to a symbol saying 'Chrissy is going home on Saturday.' (Every home-time day is 'Saturday' to Chrissy). She then, in turn, produced the symbol for car, another one with a stick figure labelled 'mummy,' &, finally, a symbol labelled 'football pitch.' The former made sense - she was going home in the car with mummy. The latter puzzled me. I didn't know why the symbol was in her book. It looked more like a TV set than a football pitch....Then I twigged. 'Is it computer?' I asked. 'Yes!' Chrissy beamed.

I was enchanted - by the gentle way that Chrissy had shared her thoughts about what we were doing, & by the way she'd expressed her wishes for what she wanted to do when we got home. Our interactions felt primevally human & bonding, & touched me as deeply as last week's plastic spoon incident, albeit in a different way. Both experiences have given me a rare insight into my daughter's true thoughts & feelings, & inspired me to work even harder to give her the best life possible.

The next day, seeing a new crop of bruises on Chrissy's naked body as I bathed her brought me back down to earth. Self-harm is still a big issue & she is as volatile as ever. She did, however, at one point, remove herself to her room for time out, then emerged declaring: 'I've finished crying mummy.'

Again, on the journey home, Chrissy showed me the car symbol with a smile.

Chrissy usually acts purely on impulse & she must have tried really hard to develop her reasoning & communication skills to this level. I hope it's something that her psychologist, speech therapist & I can continue to build on.

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