Ok, so I think ‘more than 1’ could be described as a trend. Well at least that’s how it feels this week. As a result of this ‘trend’, I’m officially launching the ‘Say “I love you” campaign’. But first, a bit of background…..
Here’s how it started:
Last week, a little boy that I work with was busy playing ball with me, then stopped what he was doing and looked at his mum with adoration and smiled. I quickly grabbed his device and modelled “I think you’re saying ‘I love you’ to mummy”. I pressed the chat link then symbol for ‘I love you’ on his iPad (which runs a comprehensive AAC app). His wonderful mum, who has picked up the whole modelling thing brilliantly, then said “I love you” to him pressing the button on his device at the same time. The boy then immediately and spontaneously said “I love you” (by using his device) with all the love, smiles and cuddles that you would have expected.
Mum and I got a bit teary, and there were lots of kisses and hugs to follow. What an honour it was for me to see this. Later that week, he said “I love you” again, his mum asked if he was saying it to her, and he said no 🙂 Then he pointed to his new baby sister. How very cute!
The very next Monday, I was visiting another child and his mum. The boy had been at his Dad’s for the weekend and was just home from school before I arrived. As you would expect, he was competing for his mother’s attention while she was filling me in on the past couple of weeks. The boy came over to interrupt us and give her a hug. Again, the loving looks but this time, I thought maybe he was saying ‘I miss you’ because he hadn’t seen her since Friday. I modelled this on his device, and he looked at me, looked at the device, then selected the button beside ‘I miss you’ on his ‘Chat’ page. Guess what it said…… “I love you” !!! I think his mum gave him a thousand kisses!!!
It turns out that after my last visit where I raved and raved about modelling language (aided language stimulation) on his device, the boy’s mum realised that every night before he goes to sleep, she says “I love you” to him verbally. She decided that maybe she should model this with the device as well. Just over a week ago, she began doing this with no expectation as yet that he would say it back. On Friday he went away to Dad’s for the weekend, so she was not at all expecting him to use this message spontaneously just a half hour after getting home the following Monday. Again, what an honour for me to witness this – the first time he has ever said “I love you” to his mum!!
So here’s the thing….these are 2 separate beautiful stories in less than a week. Hearing your child tell you “I love you” is probably one of the best things a parent can hear (and a speech pathologist can witness!). Just because a child has CCN, there is no reason why they cannot still convey this message.
I figure these stories are worth sharing with anyone who is involved with children (or adults) with complex communication needs, and based on this, here is my humble advice:
- Make sure the phrase “I love you” is available on your child’s AAC system!!! No matter whether you use a communication book, device, iPad app, or signs and gestures, ensure your child has a way to say “I love you”. For young children in particular, I think it’s important to put this on the front page or within 1 navigation from the start page of a device or communication book.
- Say it and model it. Continue to say the words “I love you” as they naturally come to you. The only difference is that you will also model the message on the device, communication book or with a sign/gesture. (One of the key things of importance here is to have the AAC system available at all times – you never know when the time is right!)
- Parents – tell your child that you love them without the expectation or requirement that they tell you back. They will tell you when they are ready, comfortable and confident. Try to be patient.
- Seize the moment. If you see your child looking at you (or another loved one) with ‘that look in their eyes’, tell them you love them (modelling with the AAC system). This is not something you can teach with a ‘therapy plan’ or specific program. This is the real stuff. It has to mean something.
- Use books and songs – there are many stories and songs that include these words. Modelling the words as lines of a song or a line in a story can be a good way to add additional opportunities to model ‘I love you’ and practise navigating to the message without messing with the ‘real’ moments.
- If you know or work with parents of children who use AAC, share these stories, or stories of your own that are similar. Every parent can relate to the warm and fuzzies in hearing these stories, and if they know it’s possible, they will find their own way to share these moments with their child
So, to anyone who is reading this, PLEASE make sure that your children, the children you know or those that you work with, have a way to say “I love you”. Hearing it via a device, communication board or signs and gestures, still means the same thing as if it’s said verbally.
Every parent should be able to hear (or in the case of lite tech, ‘see’) these words from their child. You may be the person who helps them to understand that it’s possible. SHARE THE ‘L’ WORD.