Do you know one of the things I love most about being a parent? Aside from the usual reasons such as that amazing newborn smell that makes you just want to kiss them over and over again (not that other smell), or the way your child thinks you are the most amazing, smart and beautiful person to ever walk the earth (well until I’m thinking about the age of 9 maybe 10 when you become chronically embarrassing), no I am talking about the fact that when you become a parent you have the perfect excuse to go and see the kid’s movies. You know what I mean don’t you.
Before my own kids I would readily offer others the opportunity to have a break from parenting, “How about I take Ella to the movies for you” I would say relishing in the opportunity to sit through movies like “Toy story” laughing probably louder than any kid there and I’m sorry is it just me or is Pixar out there to make every adult cry at the end of their movies with those valuable lessons about love and life! Damn you Pixar!!! But now that I have my own kids going to these movies are a regular occurrence and this school holidays was no exception. The movie of choice was Despicable me 2. I have to admit there was so much to love about this funny animated movie with its clever story line and lovable characters but my absolute favourite part about this movie was those funny quirky little minions. You know the ones I mean right, Gru’s army of little yellow creatures who appeared most of the time to be speaking in gibberish/nonsensical language. There was the odd word of English, maybe French; maybe Spanish but really as far as communicating with intelligible speech goes you really couldn’t understand too much of what they said but wow could these little guys get their message across. In order to successfully communicate their message the minions used a combination of natural gesture; facial expressions; their eyes, even their own style of body language as well as different pitch and inflection in their voices. Even though much of their speech was completely unintelligible to those around them through using all of their non-verbal communication skills, more often than not their communication was successful.
In my years spent working as a Speech Pathologist, one of the most important conversations I will have with families is around the fact that communication is more than just speech. We often get really focused on speech that we forget there are many other ways we can successfully communicate without talking. Often children who are delayed with their speech have worked out other extremely efficient ways of getting their message across without speech. Or in some cases we have to teach children other ways of communicating without speech while they are learning this incredibly complex process. One question I frequently have parents asking me is if another communication system is taught will that hinder my child’s speech development? I always make sure they are well informed and reassured that all the research supports the fact that using a communication system other than speech will NOT hinder speech development, in fact it has been shown to actually assist in the development of speech as the child or individual begins to understand the power of communication. Here are some examples of other communication systems we may teach/assist children to use:
- Using gesture such as pointing or reaching for what they want
- Using their eyes to make choices by looking at what they want
- Using gesture such as nodding or shaking our head to indicate yes/no
- Using their facial expressions or whole body movements to indicate that they like or dislike something
- Developing different vocalisations or sounds unique to the individual to indicate what they want
- Using natural gestures such as clapping when happy or a more formal gestural system such as key word signing
- Using a more formal augmentative communication system such as pictures/photos/written words to request for what they want or comment about things
- Using a more formal augmentative communication utilising technology such as an I-Pad or voice output device to communicate their needs and wants
As speech pathologists we are always focused on not only developing speech but developing communication in whatever form may be required. Communication is the key to our world, it gives us control over our environment and it is so much more than simply speech.