Our Non-Verbal World {hearing her "it" factor}

February 21, 2013 by nohandsbutours Angie, cl/cp 8 Comments

Angie and her husband live in Pennsylvania with their 3 kids (2 bio boys and 1 daughter adopted in July 2011 from china – born with the cutest cleft lip you ever did see). They spend time working on crazy projects, taking far too many pictures and serving God to the best of their abilities.

she has a certain something. a captivating quality that you can’t describe. it must have something to do with such a long period of time relying on non-verbal communication.

she can draw you into a conversation without saying a word.

this small wonder of a girl has taught me so much about everything. but perhaps more than anything else, she constantly teaches me how impatient i am. i want what i want, right now. waiting has never been a strong suit of mine. and just when i thought the adoption process held the cards on “waiting” – it was only prep work for some of the waiting we have done after she arrived home.

of the many surprises i’ve found along this journey of adoption, our non-verbal journey has been one of the most challenging and the most wonderful surprises. it was a part i never considered. i thought about surgeries and doctors visits and a few speech sessions. but i never considered what a constant and often exhausting challenge communication could be. i didn’t know how much more i needed to practice waiting and what a blessing i would find in those long days and months, learning realness of a child who can’t say all of the things they know and feel.

my daughter came home in july of 2011, 2 months later her cleft palate was repaired and 3 months later, her beautiful cleft lip was repaired. though we grieved the loss of her original lips, we hoped speech would soon follow. we hoped she would finally be able to tell us what she needed. when she was hurt or frustrated or excited. i felt exasperated and helpless as she so often screamed to be understood.

“speech will come soon” they all said (“they” being the doctors and therapists and specialists).
so we waited. we used sign language. we invented our own language.

when she didn’t progress further than 5 verbal words, they all said she must have a problem.
“it’s probably apraxia of speech” they said. “she should be genetically tested for unknown disabilities” they said.

it just didn’t feel right. she was healthy, thriving, learning. she was a typical kid in every way. i refused to make her a medical seek and find and i finally decided to pull back from the medical world for a few months and let her be who she would be. if she never spoke, we would just keep on rolling with life and help her find her voice in other ways. but the funniest part? it never felt quiet. it was surprising to me when people asked why she wasn’t talking. my mind would say, “seriously? she just told me she wanted yogurt for lunch. you didn’t hear that?” she and i could hear and understand each other in a way i’ve never experienced. and through all that frustration, all that time holding her while she screamed and i didn’t know why, God was allowing us to be knit together in a unique and special way.

and then november 2012 hit. something clicked. all those words locked up in her brilliant mind came flying out…and ever since we all just trying to keep up with all that she understands and wants us to know. she’s quite the chatterbox.
and although speech isn’t as much of an issue these days, we still use our special language. the one that doesn’t need words. she often tells me what she needs with only a glance.

i can say now that it’s been a sincere blessing to have over a year without words.
yes, frustrating at times…but i see now what it gave us as a family and what it gave my relationship with her.

we have to work hard to understand each other. harder than if language had come instantly. and in that hard work, we found a special blessing of knowing each other in a way that doesn’t need words.
a great many things can be said when no one’s talking.

i really want to know what she will be when she’s all grown up.
what will her determination and specificity produce in the future?

one thing’s for sure…she knows what she wants and she does not give up. never. no matter what.
this can be a frustrating trait when the thing she wants is a candy cane before dinner :) and knowing the best way to harness her determination is tricky. but for the most part, it is an extremely positive trait. one that amazes me to see what she can accomplish.

i have a feeling she will do a great many things.





8 Responses to “Our Non-Verbal World {hearing her "it" factor}”

  1. Oh Angie how exciting to have you on board! That determination sure is a beautiful thing … well on most days anyway :-)

  2. Stefanie says:

    So excited to have you sharing here, Angie! Loved reading this post, sounds like God used her lack of verbal communication to build your mother/daughter non-verbal communication in a way that nothing else could have :)

  3. Laura says:

    Thank you, Angie. Our little China Love is waiting for us in Anhui. I have tried to imagine what it will be like to communicate silently with her.. (She has nerve damage both ears)
    My 3 year old son (same age as Lucy) is constantly communicating wants, likes, dislikes, feelings.. from sun up to sun down! I often grieve that Lucy doesn’t will not have that capability with me, but thankful that hearing all of his constant thoughts helps me imagine what she might be thinking and I will care for her without words when she gets home. Snuggles, hugs, candy, lotion, yogurt, cereal, juice, bubble baths, crayons, and stickers.. oh and a little bit of cartoons on the side. :)
    Relying on the Holy Spirit..

    • Angie says:

      Laura, thank you for sharing! It is soooo very difficult during the wait. There’s nothing quite like it. I love your attitude of using this time to think if the needs your daughter will have when she comes home. I’m quite sure God will give you a powerful connection to your sweet girl that will be special between the two of you. Kids have amazing adaptive skills… she will surely find lots ways to tell you what she needs and likes. Keep encouraged brave mama!!

  4. Amanda says:

    My bio son was finally diagnosed with Apraxia of Speech at age 3.5 years old. At age four we were blessed with a Speech therapist who thought outside the box with her therapy. Six months later he had outgrown his IEP. Three years later, I still love watching videos of he and I communicating through his language that only I understood. It was such a special bond between us.

  5. Thanks Angie for sharing. Our twin girls just got their lip fixed a few weeks ago. Their palate was fixed 4 months ago. The medical team was expecting more sounds out of them by now so I was getting very discouraged, feeling like I was not doing enough to push their speech. Needed to know I was not the only one dealing with these issues.

  6. Jill says:

    I sooo know what you are talking about. My biol. oldest was a late talker, but an incredible communicator. I felt like his eyes could tell me whatever he wanted. He’s 6 (tomorrow!) and is talking very well now. What’s funny is my 2nd child is almost 2 and has over 100 words, and she is harder for me to figure out, lol. Thanks for sharing <3

  7. Annemarie says:

    THANK YOU so much for this post. I’ve been scouring the internet, trying to find others who have experienced delayed speech and wondered how to navigate the medical system (and how much to just let our children be so they can have the time they need to catch up). Our son is almost one-year home and still no words. lip and palate repaired–lots of speech therapy. And yet he “talks” in so many other words and tells me things all day long. I’m grateful for your words tonight. Bless you.

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