Assistive communication technology was a big help for our son along his way in school and at his past 15-year supervised work experience. For the purposes of some not knowing what this means, a communication device means cell phones, personal digital assistants or combination of both or any other device used to communicate, send, or transmit any text, video, audio or image. Not really talking until he was about 12, and then very limited and difficult to understand, our son (now 41) was helped by having learned a bit of sign language and then having some simple technology to better express himself.
We would love to tell you what might work for your situation, but we were most helped by Joey’s teachers, speech therapists, and others in the field of special needs. We were thankful to lean on their support for what would help him learn and express himself. One particular device looked like the “Easy” button one of the big box stores used to sell. When pushed it would say, “THAT was easy!” Joey’s communication device could be recorded in his voice for one simple voice command at a time. Since he was having some difficulty at work, this devise, in his voice and when pushed would say, “Leave me alone, please.” It was to help him not get angry or frustrated at too many directions, a nosy or bossy co-worker, or when he needed a “minute” alone.
While that worked well, we have also found, and continue to find, that sometimes the noise level, the activity of the little grandchildren (his nephews), or too much commotion at a birthday party or other family function has him leaving the room as if to say, “Leave me alone, please.” The question has become, “How do we handle him leaving the room,” or “How do we keep him from walking out the front or back door!”
We’ve come up with a few ideas that are helping us and maybe they will help you. Each of our children/adult children with special needs has various and different needs, abilities, and disabilities. We know our son can not be reasoned with; it just causes more frustration. Some things won’t work at all for you; but consider them and think outside the box of just the words you’re reading and get creative in how you might get it to work for you. Here we go (along with a friend who helped by adding a few thoughtful ideas, as well):
- When we notice frustration, we must try to discern what that actual frustration is. (Noise? Commotion? Crying? Screaming? Disagreements? Tired? Hungry? Etc.)
- We might remove our adult child to another room. Most places we frequent are homes of family members, so we have arranged a chair in a room where our son can sit and play a hand game, look through a favorite book, or watch a movie on a device. He can be left alone; but others may think this through further when that isn’t possible. We also have some friends that accommodate this wish, as well. For other situations it might be dimming lights, hugging the child, encouraging them with words, or helping them to do some deep breathing, “Smell the roses, blow out the candles.”
- We will tell our adult child if he gets frustrated to come and tell us; and he can in simple words, usually saying, “go home now.” When that happens, we let him know we understand, and we will go home as soon as possible. Time for him is irrelevant, so the more important thing is his comfort.
- Sometimes if we are heading out nearby or not to be gone long, we will give him the choice to stay home alone; almost always choosing to stay home. This solution means he must be fed, toileted, happy, and busy with a movie or something that will keep his attention. We have a “speed dial phone” on a land line where he can reach us any time. Our short time away (like a walk around the neighborhood) accommodates his adulthood (we didn’t do this until about age 25!) but we know the drill. If the above criteria are not met he might eat a whole container of Oreos, getting out beverages, and not having something to keep him busy (which he is generally very good about doing on his own.)
- Depending on the circumstances, if our child can take a little nap on a bed, that could be just the rest and quiet need.
- For the non-verbal, perhaps taking them for a walk outside, a walk in their wheelchair away from the commotion, etc. can re-set the situation.
- Will a weighted blanket or vest calm them?
- Might quiet smoothly music change the course?
And lastly, sometimes our daughters feel badly when our son wants to leave the room or gathering and not be with us, but in the real world, wouldn’t it be nice if when we’ve had enough we could just remove ourselves and take a break? I think it’s good that we find a way that they can be removed and “leave them alone, please!” (And by the way, when can we try this?)
Dr. Joe and Cindi Ferrini share their newest book: Love All-Ways: Embracing Marriage Together on the Special Needs Journey (order at www.cindiferrini.com). They are authors, speakers, and bloggers for several blogging sites on marriage, family and special needs. They spoke nationally for FamilyLife Weekend To Remember Marriage Get-a-Ways for 20 years, authored *Unexpected Journey – When Special Needs Change our Course, and have been interviewed on Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today, Janet Parshall at “In the Market”, Chris Brooks of “Equipped” and various other radio and television venues. Connect with them at:
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