From the moment she wakes, she is making sounds. High and low, up and down, soft and loud and soft. She sings and hums, she babbles repetitively; sounds that cannot accurately be represented through typed letters. It is, as one woman put, incessant.
During the day, it becomes background music. At bedtime, it can be annoying. But I am most aware of it when we are in public. Once, I was told that she was “distracting the other children.” But there is no stopping it. There is no silencing her.
Her vocalizations were once hurtful, indicating an altered brain, and the fact that I, her own mother, had no idea if she was speaking words I should recognize or if she was just making noise.
In the past, I clumped all of her “noises” in the category of vocal stimming. Recently, I’ve started seeing it as one of her languages, her primary language. (Hope was actually the first one to help me see it as a language – she used to mimic Rhema’s sounds back to her. And then I watched Amanda Baggs‘ profound video, and it forever changed my thinking about communication.)
It occurred to me that while it is so important to me that she learn to speak and understand my language (and I am so appreciative when she does), it’s just as important that I learn hers. So I’ve been practicing when she’s asleep or at school, trying to say things the way she says them and when she says them. When I sing a string to her, she doesn’t always look me in the eye, but she grins a soft grin. Sometimes she repeats it back to me. Sometimes she just giggles.
As I wrote in Song Without Words, I realize that I don’t have to know the meanings of the words in her language. Often she is prompted to repeat words in my language whether she understands the meaning or not. The hope is that she will understand the meaning in time. Perhaps I will understand the meaning of her words in time.
Sometimes she is so busy talking in her language, she does not listen well… to me or to her teachers. She has to be shushed to hear what we are saying. Sometimes I am so busy talking in my language, I do not listen well. I have to be shushed to hear what she is saying.
But when I hear it, really hear it, I feel like the most blessed mother of all, because her lovely chorus fills my days.
Here’s a sample of my daughter’s beautiful song, her voice, her language. It’s called “I Want Rice.”
“My language is not about designing words or even visual symbols for people to interpret. It is about being in a constant conversation with every aspect of my environment, reacting physically to all parts of my surroundings.” ~ Amanda Baggs