"She kept putting her hands in her mouth all afternoon and I kept telling her to stop." My babysitter said as I rounded the corner into daycare to find my daughter covered in vomit and our day care provider mopping her kitchen floor. "Then she told me her mouth hurt and the next thing I knew she was vomiting. She never told me her stomach was upset!" "Oh," I said as I took the whole scene in. "I thought I told you. That is how she tells you her stomach hurts. "
My daughter started talking very young and since that time the statement "my mouth hurts" has resulted in a quick dash to grab something for her to get sick in and a great sense of dread for what lies ahead. It use to happen quite frequently but since her system has finally regulated itself and she no longer goes a week without having a bowel movement, we have gone 6 months without hearing those dreaded words. So I had relaxed and forgotten to mention that one piece of information to our new day care provider. And so, on a Thursday afternoon, here I am face to face with a vomit covered sobbing child who doesn't like to get dirty and doesn't like changing her clothes and an annoyed day care provider who now has to spend her evening disinfecting her kitchen. Great.
I have spent her whole life learning how to speak my daughter's language. Her mouth hurts translates to stomach aches, something itching means that she is uncomfortable in a situation and is in sensory overload. Sitting quiet and still means that the room is too loud and she has stepped inward to manage her sensory input, which is protesting. See there is a unique problem when your child is so verbal that she has an adult's vocabulary but cannot find the words to articulate her internal needs. The older she gets the more I am beginning to think it has less to do with locating the correct words and instead is connected with the fact that the descriptions we non- SPD people use do not apply to how it feels in her body.
So the question is, do you embrace her verbiage or do you correct it to be one that others understand? Lately I’ve been thinking that I may just leave that decision up to her. As her mother, I speak her native tongue and while that seems like a foreign language to me, it is the one she was born with. In order to live and support the life that is most uniquely hers, I must accept how she views and talks about the world. I liken it to traveling abroad. As I prepared to travel to Italy, I took the time to learn Italian. When I arrived, I was by no means fluent but I was able to communicate. Part of this SPD journey has included learning a new language and accepting it as equal to the one I speak. When the time comes, I will let my daughter decide if she wants to learn how to translate her thoughts into the native language of her peers or if she wants to continue to speak in her own way and let in only others that support that decision. In the mean time, I will keep translating for the adults around her.