Below is a sneak preview from The Autism Language Launcher : A Parent’s Guide to Helping Your Child Turn Sounds and Words into Simple Conversations
Chapter 7: The Power of Silence
The saying “silence is golden” is perfect for our children. Silence creates fertile ground for our children to experiment with their own verbal communication abilities. So much happens for our children and us when we allow ourselves to be with our children and be silent:
★ We hear more. When we stop talking, we leave room for listening. We can’t talk and listen at the same time. By over-talking we miss what our children are already saying. We miss their sounds and attempts at words. We miss whole words. Some of our children, when they first begin to experiment with saying words, whisper them. It’s virtually impossible to hear a whisper when we are talking.
I remember the first time my teachers encouraged me to have a session where I was totally silent. I was stunned by how much verbal communication I heard from the young girl I was working with. I had already been working with her for three days, clocking about 10 incredibly fun hours with her, and I had not heard her say a word. By the end of a 30-minute session done on my part in complete silence, I had already heard two completely clear words and three approximations. This was a clear turning point for me in my work with children, where I really understood how my unnecessary talking could actually hamper a child’s verbal communication development. It was at this most enlightening time that I began to dedicate myself to practicing listening more and talking less.
When we do not listen to our children, we cannot receive their communication, and when we do not receive it, we cannot respond to it, and if we do not respond to it, we are unintentionally telling our children that their verbal communication does not matter. For our children to continue to use verbal communication they must first see that it matters and is powerful.
★ We give the message we want them to talk. When we are filling the silence with our talking, we are unintentionally sending the message to our child “Don’t talk, listen.” We are saying it is more important that they listen to us than talk to us. If we want our children to talk more, we must give them room to talk. Silence does just that.
★ We help their talking process. Our children find it challenging to form words and sentences. If they found it easy, you would not be reading this book. It takes time for our children to figure out the whole process of talking. When we want to say a word, we have to go to the part of the brain that stores the word and then figure out how to get that word to our mouth and move our mouth and tongue in the correct configuration to produce the sound that represents that word. For us, this is all done in a fraction of a second. We have already mastered this; it seems so easy and fast that we don’t realize how many steps there are. But let’s say our children want to say something and they are trying to find the word in their brain; this takes work and concentration. Then we say something and that takes their focus away from finding their word to listening to our words. We don’t want to do that; we want to help them keep focused on forming the word. I’m not a good cook and if, say, I’m trying to produce a meal for my family, I can’t listen to someone standing talking to me and cook at the same time. I need silence around me or the meal’s a disaster. It’s the same for our children, especially at the beginning of learning to communicate verbally, when they are trying to produce their words. They benefit greatly from the space that silence offers to help them keep focused on what they are trying to do.
Listening is not just being silent, though; it is having an intention to hear everything our children are saying. It means putting our children’s verbal communication ahead of our own. By having the intention to listen we are saying, “I am here with you, for you, ready to hear and understand you.” The great news is, our children are already broadcasting; all we have to do is start listening to their radio station.”
(Excerpt courtesy of Jessica Kingsley Publishers.)