Sunday, 25 March 2012

Detective Mom

As mom to a non-verbal child I feel I have a sixth sense about what my eight year old son, Carter is thinking, feeling, wanting or needing. I don't always get it right -- especially when he is sick or hurt which is something that distresses me. That's when my 'detective skills' kick in to high gear. I look for clues and try to interpret what is going on with Carter as best as I can.

Carter is becoming more competent with his voice output device (Vantage Lite) but in some situations he is not able to have his talker with him. And he still has some learning to do in order for him to be fully able to communicate his needs with the device. He still relies on sign language and gestures to help him convey his message.


It's not easy stepping into new situations where someone unfamiliar will be in charge of Carter. I do my best to provide information in an 'All About Me' document that explains, as much as possible, the 'ins and outs' of Carter and some of his quirks and idiosyncrasies. It doesn't always make up for Carter's inability to fully express himself.

As I look back on our family's recent ski trip to Vermont, I find myself reflecting on Carter's communication skills and how they affected his experience.

I've written below what I, as 'Mom detective' could imagine was the running dialogue in Carter's head throughout his 3 day ski experience.

Day 1

Cool! We're going skiing. I love skiing! But I hate the the heavy squeezing feeling in my feet when my ski boots are on...same goes for the helmet. I guess I'm so excited I forgot to freak out this time when Dad helped me get my gear on.

Bye, Mom. Bye, Dad. See you guys after my ski lesson.

Wow, it's hot in here. I wonder why we're still inside the chalet. Mom took a long time talking to my instructor and telling her all about me but I thought we'd go outside after she left. I wish someone would help me take off some of my gear. I'm cooking.

Hmmmm, I don't feel so good. [YAWN] I'm tired from that long car ride yesterday and from not sleeping very well in that new, weird bed. Man, I am sooo hot.

Yuck. There goes my breakfast. Now my jacket's a mess. Well, that got everyone's attention. At least they're cleaning me up. And now some lady is on the phone. I think she's talking to Mom.

Oh, there's Dad. I guess we're leaving. Well, at least we're going outside where it's cooler.

Aaaaah, back in the room. Mom looks worried. She's saying I look pasty. 

Thanks for turning on the TV so I can relax, Mom!

I love this show! I love it so much I'm going to jump up and down! It's so nice to be out of all that ski gear.

Some toast? Sounds good, Mom. My stomach feels fine now.

That afternoon:

Ski gear again? Well, okay but I do NOT want to go back and sit in the chalet again.

YES!!! Dad just said they don't have anyone to give me my lesson for another hour so he's going to take me on some runs with Mom!

Ahhh...I love the chair lift. So much to look at!

Now this is what I call skiing! Dad does all the work and I go along for the ride. Riding between Dad's legs is definitely the way to go. Love feeling the wind in my face!!

I wonder why we're going over to the small hill. 

Oh, this is my lesson.

Well, this is okay, I guess. Riding the magic carpet is funny sometimes. Makes me laugh.

Sheesh...I'm tired. I think I'm pretty much done for the day. I wonder how I can get the message across that I've had enough. If I hold my stomach she'll probably make a big fuss like she did this morning when I threw up.

Yep...she's pulling out her cell phone -- must be calling Mom and Dad. Mission accomplished.

Day 2

Yahoo!! Skiing with Jack and Taylor -- I can't wait!

What? Where are we going? Why aren't we going with Jack and Taylor?

No way! I want to be with them. The little hill? Forget it. I'm not putting on my skis. I'm not going on that baby hill.

Why can't everyone just get outta my face. I'm so sick of hearing that 'It's okay'. It's not okay. I want to be with my brother and sister! This sucks. It's not fair.

Who's this now? A new instructor?Well, at least she's quiet and not trying to convince me to do something I don't want to do. Looks like she'd be willing to wait for me all day.

Fine, I'll put on my skis but I'm not happy about it. Mom and Dad are watching so there's still a chance they might get me outta here if I keep being difficult.

What? They're leaving? 

Guess that didn't work. 

Fine, I'll go down the hill with this new lady. She seems okay.

Cool! I did it and now she's going to take me on the chairlift to a bigger hill!

Yes! I'm doing it! Look at me! Look at me! This is so much fun! 



Day 3

Yes! I'm with my awesome instructor from yesterday! I can't wait to get going.

See ya, Mom and Dad!

This is awesome! I love skiing! 

There certainly would have been less guess work had things started off differently that first day when we dropped Carter off at the chalet for his ski lesson. After he was sick to his stomach, we brought him back to our room and I did my best to figure out what was going on with him. I watched him for a few hours and felt 95% sure that he didn't lose his breakfast because he was coming down with a nasty bug. Overtired, overheated, and a lot of excitement is what I figured was the cause. But as I mentioned earlier, I don't always get it right. And the 5% of lingering doubt really weighed on me.

Thankfully Carter proved me right, quashing my worries over whether he should carry on with his lessons. He was a happy boy once things got rolling with his new instructor.

You can see by the smile on his face that he was very proud to be out on the slopes doing his thing!