Yo soy La Lay

adventures in family, faith, and Down syndrome

Advocacy #10: Accept that Behavior = Communication

on October 10, 2015

You cannot advocate for the real needs of a person with a disability until you are willing to accept and understand that in all humans, behavior is communication.

Behavior IS communication.

This is so important, most especially in a world where people have more limited ability to express their thoughts and needs or those who need extra time to process what is going on.

I spoke with a group of high school students this week about Down syndrome and what it means for our family and Tessa.  We spent quite some time talking about how low muscle tone affects her ability to function and how it has caused some challenges in speech.  We talked what it might be like to live in a world where we could not communicate our needs.

If you remember back to Spanish class in high school, your teacher probably forced you to ask in Spanish if you had to go to the bathroom.  Speaking with the students, I asked them to recall a time when they (or another student) really, really had to go, but couldn’t remember how to ask.  We talked about what that looks like.  The kids giggled quite a bit, thinking about the dancing and the frantic pacing and the mad dash to look up the words in the Spanish dictionary… and then we talked about what it might feel like to be that way all the time, how if you were in the grocery store and a clerk was rapid-fire asking questions (paper or plastic?  debit or credit?  coupons? milk in a bag?), it might be overwhelming and over time, you might develop some other coping strategies to say “slow down, I need time to think!”

When you see a behavior that doesn’t fit into the standard view of what would be “normal,” understand that the behavior is communicating some feeling or need.  Patience is advocacy.  Acceptance is advocacy.  Love is advocacy.

Happy Saturday!

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7 responses to “Advocacy #10: Accept that Behavior = Communication

  1. margothamilton says:

    Great post. And you found an amazing way to get the communication thing across to the students! Check out my blog about Alex! http://chasingalex.com/http://chasingalex.com/

  2. […] we can accept that 1) behavior is communication and 2) people who have special needs don’t need to be shuttled off to their own separate […]

  3. YES! Our guy’s behavior is most definitely an indicator of what he’s trying to relay to us! Signing has helped him greatly! Hoping to try some other ideas to increase speech soon! Your girl is a doll!

    • Maggie says:

      Thanks. 🙂 I don’t know why it’s so hard for people to understand that actions mean something, but in the world of teachers that I live in, I find myself explaining that left and right.

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