Thursday, September 12, 2013

Communicating: Tongue-Tied No More

Aunt Linda and me on a chilly July 4th.
I've never met a person more generous than Aunt Linda. Every time we walk past the children's department in a clothing store, she finds an outfit she'd like to buy for every child she knows. She knits hats, scarves, and pot holders for anyone she's ever met (and even donates some to various charitable organizations for the people she hasn't met yet). Some day, when we're rich and frivolous, we'll have fun giving away our money and buying things for people. Until then, we dream about it.

It's important to understand Linda's generous nature in order to understand her actions. There are times when she can't quite verbally express her motivations, so I need to rely on my knowledge of the situation and Linda's personality to know what's going on.

For example, we recently planned a night at the movies with our friends Hope and Nick and two of their kids. We all enjoy the movies, but what we really look forward to are the snacks. Matt and I can share, but Linda refuses to sit next to use (she doesn't like to watch us cuddle), so she gets her own food and sits a row or two ahead of us.

She'll usually buy herself a medium drink and small popcorn, but during this particular outing she ordered a large tub. Matt double checked with Linda that she did, in fact, want the large popcorn (he knows how it upsets her stomach). She insisted. Matt looked at me for some help, but I waved him off. "Okay, get the large."

Here's the thing about Linda - it's hard enough to find the right words to say what she means in every day situations, and when you put her on the spot, she chokes. If I had pressed her and tried to force the small popcorn on her, she would have become upset and frustrated while insisting on the large. Instead, I tapped in to what I know: Hope's family was meeting us at the movies and Linda loves to give. Sure enough, when our friends arrived Linda handed them her bucket. She ate a bit off the top, but the rest was theirs.

Living with a special-needs individual can be difficult if you expect them to think, act, and communicate the same way you do. Instead of trying to force them into your mold, get to know their molds. Linda can't always use her words to express herself, so I have to be more observant. By paying attention and letting her communicate in her own way, Linda and I understand each other pretty well. Now we just need to earn that million dollars so we can hit the children's department.


Bonnie Randolph said...

I understand completely. Love to watch them share and be sooo happy about it! Thanks.

Jeanne said...

Congratulations on being a "special" Special Needs Caregiver, Karin. What a challenge it must be. I didn't know what exactly the situation with Linda was, but guessed there was something. You are very kind to be helping her and the family out and I just wanted to give you kudos for that!

Rachel Kyncl said...

Teary just reading this. You are just amazing.