Thursday, 15 January 2015

Another way to listen...

For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that I have a son with autism/ADHD - this has been a whole learning journey on its own... not least when it comes to listening.







When he was younger he did not like to wear dress up clothes - I did not know why, but I listened to his distress when it came to dress up days and I would buy a t-shirt with a ghost on it for halloween and his tomte suit (santa suit) for Lucia I bought as pyjamas for him  - so he always thought he was going to preschool in his pyjamas. When he was five he asked me "Will I still be Michael if I wear dress up clothes?" - his dislike of dress up clothes had actually been a fear of being transformed into something else, probably with the added worry of wondering if one could transform back. This experience has given an awareness of listening for these worries in other children too...


Early in the mornings he would run into our bed (sometimes in the middle of the night) as he had woken up and was afraid of being alone in the dark. He would lie next to me and settle back to sleep - but it was important that I faced him - and if I turned over to get comfortable he would say "mummy you need to look at me". It was not until a few years later that he asked "mummy do you still love me when you look the other way?" (talk about a heart-breaking question - all those years of not understanding why he did not like me turning his back on me). This really allowed me to understand that we do not all interpret body-language in the same way - for me rolling over was just about comfort, while for Michael it was a signal that I was no longer interested in him. This means that I need to be aware that children are not going to interpret body-language in the same way as me, or each other... and that this can cause problems and conflicts - my awareness can help me learn about how other children listen to body language - it also means I point out body-language to children
"look at what her body is saying to you... it is saying that she does not feel comfortable with you playing with her hair..." etc etc depending on the situation... this allows the children to better understand the codes of body-language.
My son, even now as he approaches 11 still wonders about this... he still comes into our bed when he is scared ... but now he says "I know you still love me even though you turn around" - needing to say it out loud every time to reassure himself.



Over the years there have been many complaints about him not following instructions... and there are a whole variety of reasons for this... my favourite one was back when he was 7 and his teachers complained about how he would never help to tidy up - I asked about what was being said... "Can everyone tidy up" (ALLA being the Swedish word for everyone) - I pointed out to the teacher that Michael is probably feeling pretty sorry for the child called Alla who has to tidy up all the time and suggested that they go over to him and ask him to tidy up by his name... it turned out to be a winning concept - as once he heard his name he also listened to the rest of the sentence and could hear the instructions...
This understanding of Michael's need to be personally addressed in order for him to surface from his play to listen is something I keep in mind all the time. A reluctance to help might just be due to the fact that they have not tuned into the instructions and you need to communicate in a way that they can hear.

Of course learning to listen to over-stimulation is very important... and learning to know when to find a quiet corner or maybe leave is a skill we are learning together.

Of course there are many other things that he has taught me, and continues to teach me... and I continue to learn more about listening...

after all if there are a hundred languages in children's learning and communication etc... then I need to learn a hundred ways of listening...

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