Photo credit Shulse Photography - used with permission
I knew my son was Deaf at 5 days of age. I also knew he had blind spots in his eyes called colobomas, but he clearly saw something. Not yet knowing about deafblindness and the impact of the combined loss, our focus was on his hearing loss. How were we going to communicate with our son? How were we going to know what he wanted, what he felt, what he thought? How was he going to know us? I couldn't imagine how to do that without language. Feeling it would be easier for us to learn American Sign Language than for Dylan to learn spoken English, we jumped into ASL classes when he was only 3 months old. Desperate to make up for the time he didn't hear our voices in utero, I couldn't wait to share this visual language with Dylan. As time passed though, the significance of Dylan's vision loss and vision processing became clear to me, as Dylan did not sign back to us.
Now Dylan is 19 and is still what the professionals call an emergent communicator, a person who communicates without formal language. In spite of this, we have a rich, full, meaningful relationship that I would not have thought possible without language all those years ago.
Why? How do we communicate without words? How do we talk about the past, the present, and the future? How does Dylan learn new concepts? How does he express his preference?
As I moderate (the Communication Matrix Community) over the next month, I'll share more of what's worked for Dylan and would love to learn what's worked for you in sharing communication with someone who is an early communicator.