The crappiest part of having a non-verbal child

February 23rd, 2017 Posted by Misc No Comment yet


Whitney Barthel

posted in Mom Stories

I hate it when people are shocked to learn that Daniel is 6 years old. I hate it that I have to speak for him when strangers ask him questions like “Oh, what’s your name?” I hate it that he can’t whisper what he wants into Santa’s ear at Christmas. And, I hate it that he can’t tell me why he’s upset in something more than grunts, moans, and tears.

  *Daniel signing “mom.”

For someone who has always survived on little more than books filled with words and peanut butter toast, it seems ironic that a woman who makes her living stinging words together would have a child who cannot speak.

I have dreams where Daniel comes up and asks me for chicken nuggets for lunch. It is glorious. And I think my heart would actually explode if he managed to proclaim, “I love you, Mom.”

As the mother of the most verbally challenged 6-year-old I have ever known, I took comfort in another special needs mother’s words. On her blog called Surviving Adoption, special-needs mom, Katie, writes,

“I face [sheer terror] every day at the thought that she can’t tell me what is wrong, who hurt her, what makes her happy and that I will get it wrong is something that breaks away pieces of me every single day.

Am I failing? No. I am not.
Is she failing? No. Never.
It is what it is.

But you need to know how this hurts… We parents of children who are nonverbal? We have every single one of us had this happen. Someone was cruel to our child. Someone was unfeeling. Someone committed a serious wrong to our child. And we caught it. Not because our child told us, but because we are these hovering parents because we must be. And knowing that we caught it strikes terror in our souls just at the moment we begin to relax. There is no relaxing. Not for us. Not now, not ever.”

These words are so powerful and so true. As if having a special-needs child wasn’t complicated enough, having a non-verbal child is a whole other full-time job.

You are always there ready to pounce at the slightest sign of trouble, always on the defensive. It’s exhausting. While it would be nice to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, you know you can’t take that chance. And, it’s a crappy way to have to view the world.

Do you love someone who is non-verbal? What is it like for your family?

Photo credit: Whitney Barthel

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