I had an interesting thing happen to me on Friday. Of course I didn’t get to talk about it because more important things happened. But Namine is doing better now, so I can bring it up. Anyway, this reminded me how being the parent of a special needs child has changed me. It has shaped and formed me, as a person, in ways that might never have happened otherwise.
At work, I had a dollar. The vending machine does not take paper money, so I went to the receptionist to get change for my dollar. So I handed it to her, and she got out four quarters for me. As she went to hand me the quarters, she had to answer the phone. So I took the quarters and signed “thank you” since she was busy talking. She looked at me quizzically. For a moment I couldn’t figure out the source of her confusion; then it dawned on me that she didn’t understand sign language.
Thanks to Pierre Robin sequence and the regressed jaw and cleft palate it caused, Namine’s speech was severely hampered; the trach made speaking even further difficult, because until she got the Passe-Muir speaking valve, she could make very little noise. I remember that when Namine was younger, she couldn’t cry. We had to keep the volume of the TV low at night, because her crying was no louder than hiccups or a loud sigh.
So teaching Namine sign language helped her to communicate when she couldn’t have otherwise; we continue to teach her sign alongside speaking, because her pronunciation is still developing. She’s improving, though – she now calls my mom’s cat, Mischief, “miss” (she actually said the “s” yesterday!) instead of just meowing at it. (In case you haven’t guessed, animal noises have helped with vocalization too.)