Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Quotes About Communication

I love Rosemary Crossley's quote, "Not being able to speak is not the same as having nothing to say," so much so that I made it a permanent part of my blog page.

I did a search on the web to see if I could find other quotes related to communication. There are plenty out there but I chose only a few to share here. 

As I read the quotes, I was able to relate the message in each to Carter's situation. Here's the beginning of my collection of communication quotes:

"If we are strong, our strength will speak for itself. If we are weak, words will be of no help."  
--- John F. Kennedy

"To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others." --- Anthony Robbins

"I'm a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other, and how they can achieve the kind of freedoms that they're interested in." --- Bill Gates

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said.” --- Peter Drucker

"The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them." --- Ralph Nichols

“The biggest mistake is believing there is one right way to listen, to talk, to have a conversation -- or a relationship.”--- Deborah Tannin

“Communication really is the essence of being a human being,”  --- Katya Hill 

"The basic building block of good communications is the feeling that every human being is unique and of value." --- unknown

And finally, my favourite...

“You can talk with someone for years, everyday, and still, it won't mean as much as what you can have when you sit in front of someone, not saying a word, yet you feel that person with your heart, you feel like you have known the person for forever.... connections are made with the heart, not the tongue.”  
--- C. JoyBell C

What does communication mean to you?

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Bentley's Biz: Fostering Freedom, The Story of One Amazing Foster Mom

Before I came to live with my boy, Carter, I lived with one awesome lady. Her name is, Elizabeth and she taught me everything I know.

She took me into her home and raised me to be a calm and obedient pup so that I could use my skills to help out a child with a disability. That child ended up being my buddy, Carter.  I've been his service dog for just about two years now. But I couldn't have done it without my foster mom, Elizabeth.

Click the link below to read a doggone good, tale about Elizabeth as a foster puppy raiser. You'll learn all about what a paws-i-tive experience raising a service dog can be. Now, go on, get reading. Arf!

For more of Bentley's Biz click the links below:

Thursday, 13 September 2012

The Little Things Mean So Much

'Diversity in abilities forces us to define our own “normal” and allows us to choose what we celebrate.' Anchel Krishna  Today's Parent

I made note of a few language related things that Carter has demonstrated over the past few months. These are things that made me smile, laugh, or say, 'Yes!' They are things that made me realize how far Carter has come with his communication skills, both receptively and expressively.

Take a look...

Being considerate

Taylor came to the dinner table one night, after everyone else. We'd already said grace and had begun eating. As she sat down she apologized, "Sorry I missed grace," she said. Carter responded by pushing the button on his talker that was programmed with our version of grace, 'For our daily food, we are thankful. Amen.' We laughed and thanked him for the recap. He made sure that grace was said for Taylor, too.

Potty humour

Kids would not be kids if they didn't go through the potty humour stage. Jack and Taylor have been laughing, for what seems like years now, about the word 'underwear' and all things related. Carter is right there with them. He's found the 'underwear' button on his talker and just loves making his brother and sister laugh by repeatedly pairing underwear with someone's name.

Observing and commenting

Back in the heat of the summer we were sitting at the table eating lunch. Carter was doing his usual thing with his talker which is to converse a bit with us and then divert to exploring and playing around with his device (this basically consists of him randomly hitting buttons so that what he is saying doesn't make much sense - much like a toddler babbling and experimenting with new sounds and words).

So, when I heard him say mountain I didn't think much of it - probably just more exploration on his part. But then he paired mountain with beer and spoke both words together. That got my attention. Mountain Beer? Sounds cold and clear, like great tasting beer. I looked over and there was Carter pointing to my husband's can of Coor's Light. But of course, Mountain Beer!

note the mtn graphic above the label

Pushing the limits to get a reaction

Carter has the names of several people programmed into his talker. For my husband and I he has Mom and Dad (of course). I've added and deleted people's names over time as needed; classmates move away, teachers change, etc. Carter recently got a new therapist at school whose name is Stacey, so I programmed her name into his device.

One night during dinner, Jack and Taylor were talking about going for a swim after they finished eating. That's when Carter interjected with, 'Swimming Stacey.' I was pretty sure he meant me but I wanted to make sure he wasn't referring to his therapist - perhaps they'd talked about swimming at school. I asked him, 'Do you mean Stacey at school?' A big grin spread across his face and he pointed directly at me. He laughed and laughed and I couldn't help but laugh, too.

Jack and Taylor play around with calling my husband and I by our first names and it started a while back. But, this was the first opportunity Carter had to try it out and he loved it, giggling away - just like my other two. It was awesome.

Although some days it seems that Carter's language development and competency with his talker is advancing at a painstaking rate, he is definitely progressing - and it's often when I stop to take note of the little things that I recognize this.

Carter has demonstrated that he can show consideration toward others, he can make observations, he can get a reaction, and he can be a big goofball. These are the things that most parents take for granted with their children. 

One of the greatest things I've learned from Carter is not to take anything for granted and to appreciate and be grateful for the little things.

I'm not alone in this feeling. Take a look at some of the milestones my fellow bloggers are celebrating with their kids:

Max Walks Up the Stairs for the First Time


Thursday, 6 September 2012

Sign Me Up

Before I started this blog, I did some writing for the Waterloo Region Family Network. Here's something I posted on the WRFN blog a couple of years ago when Carter was seven. The article was actually written when Carter was five. It was an assignment for a freelance writing course that I took. It tells of another form of augmentative communication that Carter used before he got his talker.

Parents would not be human if they, like everyone else in the world, didn’t follow new trends, especially trends that make life easier. You don’t have to search too hard to find the latest fads in baby gear and accessories. Products in the world of babies and toddlers change so drastically that it is often hard to keep up. Strollers become more compact and car seats become safer, with seat belt systems more elaborate than last year’s model. As the world changes, so too do the tools required for the job of parenting.

A current trend in the world of new parents and tots is to use sign language to communicate.  This consists of mom and dad learning a few basic signs likes more, all done, mom, dad, drinkcookie, etc. When mom and dad model these signs for their little ones, babies imitate what they see, enabling them to communicate with their parents long before their vocal chords are mature enough for speech.


Parents of a child with special needs learn to sign out of necessity rather than choice because often along with other challenges, their child has a delay in speech and language. Due to the recent trend of signing with babies, there are a variety of resources available to purchase or borrow from local libraries that assist with the learning of simple, relevant signs.

My husband and I anticipated speech difficulties with our son, Carter because he was born with a cleft palate. However, the cleft palate did not explain why our son was not developing speech and language skills at an age appropriate rate. Over time, we made a gradual discovery that our son has global developmental delay.

Carter’s signing vocabulary grew over time.  We started by teaching him food items and then moved on to his favourite toys. We have since taught him signs to label specific items of clothing as well as colours.

Initially a child must be motivated by an item in order to learn to sign for it. It was no surprise to us that Carter’s first signed word was cookie. Although motivated to copy the hand motion that we showed him in order to be rewarded with a cookie, the process was painstaking initially, due to the amount of demonstrations, and repetitions needed before he finally caught on to what was expected of him. In the end it was very rewarding for both Carter and me. Carter got what he wanted because he now had a way to express himself and I was able to provide for him at his request.

It is often very easy to give a child what they want if they point or motion toward the item.  Parents fall into the habit of giving their child what they want before they even ask for it. It was helpful to create opportunities to teach Carter new signs by hiding an item or putting it out of reach so that he was forced to request it.

Carter’s fine motor skills are delayed which created some challenges around certain signs, as some hand motions were too complicated for him. When this occurred, we would revise the sign to make it more manageable for Carter. We also created signs so that he had a way to name certain family members, as well as friends.

At [seven] years of age, our son interacts with a variety of people often away from home.  Unfortunately, it is not feasible for us, as parents, to expect everyone that Carter sees on a regular basis, to learn sign language.  It has been a very beneficial method of communication that has bridged a gap between Carter, his family and his therapists.  However, we’ve recently made the transition to the next level of communication with Carter, a voice output device.  Unlike baby sign, a portable, talking computer device is not all that trendy, but just as strollers and car seats have evolved, so too must my son’s method of communication.

So much has changed in the world of technology over the last few years. We are now in the golden age of the iPad with AAC apps being developed at a rapid pace. If Carter had been born just a few years later, things may have been quite different. I may or may not have gone the sign language route with him. Nevertheless, I'm grateful that he has a back-up method of communication for when his talker is unavailable to him and I'm thrilled that we live in the age that we do because so many high-tech options have become more readily available to those who are non-verbal.