Harry loves the ‘Health’ category on his talker. Not hugely surprising though as we are in there quite a bit chatting about seeing the doctor, dentist, nurse or having botox and even just your run of the mill sore throat, cough, sneeze and my old favourite vomit.
I like to think that I’m pretty good at telling Harry when we have an appointment coming up and making sure that I model on his talker that we’re going to the ‘doctor’ at the ‘hospital’ or that he’s having ‘botox’. But this is all just real top level practical stuff and I have been missing out on a decent chunk of communication that was more important to him.
A few weeks ago we were at the hospital for an orthopaedic clinic to check on Harry’s hips and spine. As we arrived for the clinic we were told to head up for an x-ray first. As we were waiting to head in for the x-ray, I modelled to Harry that he was going to have an ‘x-ray’ and he started pressing the ‘x-ray’ button over and over again. Brilliant, I thought, now he knows where that word is, yay me for modelling.
And then a discussion I’d had with Harry’s speechie at our previous session popped in to my head, maybe there was more to this? He really was giving the ‘x-ray’ button a good workout, what else is going on here? So I decided to chat to Harry about how he felt about going to have an x-ray…
As my heart tightened in my chest, I then carefully talked to Harry (whilst modelling the key words on his talker) about exactly what was going to happen and reassured him that I would be with him and we will be brave together.
Flash forward to yesterday and we were back in the hospital for an eye clinic to check on Harry’s sight. I also knew that he would be having eye drops put in to dilate his pupils that would allow the ophthalmologist to see right into the back of his eyes. He loathes having the eye drops in and I can hear other children crying already as the lovely nurse gently and efficiently pops the eye drops in.
This time I was ready. Whilst Harry and I were waiting (and waiting and waiting), we chatted though exactly what was going to happen, from the bright light that they would shine to the eye drops that the nurse would put in his eyes that would make everything look shiny. I had to quickly program in ‘eye drops’ as we were chatting, but that’s easily done on Harry’s Compass communication app.
And then we went on to chat about feelings. This time I was ready for my next teary moment, but it didn’t come, Harry wasn’t interested in talking about his feelings. Hmmm. Maybe we had covered off everything he needed to know already?
He sailed through the clinic with both the nurse and ophthalmology technician commenting on how well-behaved he was. I showed them both the talker and how we’d been chatting through it all. I love watching people’s faces when they first see Harry’s talker and how he uses it. I can just picture the words ‘presume competence’ forming in their minds!
Talking through this all with Harry’s speechie, she reminded me about how all of us, and especially children, often talk repeatedly about health situations. In fact, I still tell people that when I was pregnant with Tallulah I needed surgery and she’s 1 already. See, I just told you all and it has nothing to do with this blog. And so when Harry is repeatedly saying CT scan, CT scan. CT scan he may want to talk about his feelings surrounding it or he may just be looking for a little bit of sympathy from someone. And sometimes, like with the eye clinic, he’ll be fine about it all and there will be no need to delve into the emotional side of what’s happened. But I will do my best to ensure that our discussions go beyond ‘doctor’ ‘hospital’ and ‘eye’ so that I empower him with the words he needs and the opportunity to overcome any fears he may have.
And off home we went. Harry asleep in the car with his dilated pupils tightly shut to keep out the bright sun and me feeling a renewed sense of awe in the power of AAC.