For a lot of parents, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what your child with special needs can understand. Some kids can be hyperactive and lack focus, making it hard for them to do a simple task. Or, a child may not have language yet so they can’t give you feedback. For immobile or low mobility kids, they may not be able to show they’ve grasped what you said.
But, it’s important to know that your child is understanding.
They may not be able to express it in a clear way, but they can. I don’t think this comes as a surprise to parents like you. You know your child is smart! But, I think it’s very natural to question or doubt this. Again, you may not be getting much feedback yet!
I find that for a lot of kids with sensory processing issues, or for many kids on the spectrum their hypersensitivity to sounds gets in the way. When the brain is constantly trying to filter out chaos, it’s hard to focus in on what someone is saying. And, often these kids will constantly be on the move because of sensory overload. But, that can often look like lack of focus, easily distracted, etc.
I think the best example of this that we could possibly understand is being at a very loud bar or restaurant. You’re trying to focus on what the person in front of you is saying, but there’s so much other background noise. I know I can really tune out in these situations. Tuning out can also be a sign of sound sensitivity.
It’s not that your child doesn’t understand the words, it’s that there’s too much going on.
And, for the kids that cannot speak yet they’re in a rough spot. For the most part, society still to this day relies on spoken language to confirm someone’s intelligence or understanding. Trust me, it’s gotten a lot better! But, there are still so many doctors and therapists who grade someone’s understanding based on this solely.
If someone were to tape your mouth shut for a whole day, would that change what you could hear? No. But, the sad truth for nonverbal kids is that if they can’t talk that must mean they don’t understand. And, these poor kids have to sit in the office as the professionals tell their parents they don’t understand anything. How frustrating!
And, then there are the children that can say words, but they perseverate, say the opposite of what they mean, or say something that is completely not related to the conversation. It’s the same exact thing. These kids know exactly what’s going on. But, their brain gets things disorganized and what comes out may not be what they mean!
Lack of speech does not mean lack of intelligence.
Lack of speech does not mean lack of intelligence. This was something taught to me at a very young age. And, something that I assumed everyone knew! But, as I got older I saw the bitter truth about that. However, I can name a slew of people who can’t speak but are brilliant. Want an example? How about Stephen Hawkin? Did you know that Albert Einstein didn’t speak until he was 4 years old?
You know that your child is brilliant
And, I realize that I’m probably preaching to the choir with this post. All parents that I talk to know that their child with special needs is capable of great things. They know they’ve got a smart cookie on their hands. And, that their child has probably already defied a slew of bad prognoses.
But, I know. That little voice of doubt can really eat away at you. It’s okay and natural to second guess. And, you can’t beat yourself up over it.
So, in case you need to hear this today: Your child understands a great many things and you’re better off assuming your child understands every word that you say to them. And, that they understand everything that others say to them.
And even then, if you’re not 100% sure (and that’s okay) you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain by speaking to your child just like anyone else. You have everything to gain by speaking to them at their exact age level or higher.
Chances are, your child will be sighing a sigh of relief.
The one person who is their #1 cheerleader is finally on their page. Talk about feeling confident and having faith in that acknowledgement! We all know it’s better when you’ve got someone always in your corner and on your side.
So if this was something you needed to read today, I hope you found it helpful. If this is something that you think a friend, relative, or doctor/therapist could benefit from, please feel free to share 🙂
If you’re ready to get your child with special needs sleeping well, but not sure where to being, I’m here to help!
Melissa Doman has worked with kids of a variety of diagnoses. Contact to learn more!