I could hear the boys playing in their rooms when Andrew began to whine.

I gave it a minute.

Then two.

By the third minute I could feel my jaw begin to clench.

“Ian, is everything okay? What’s going on with your brother?!” I called from the kitchen.

I was starting to feel the familiar annoyance that rises within me whenever Andrew makes these sounds for longer than a few seconds at a time.

“He’s fine mom. He’s just whining for no reason, as usual.” I could hear the same annoyance building in my seven year old’s voice.

Normally I would take his word for it, knowing that if there was something truly wrong, Ian would come and get me.

But it was the “for no reason” comment that stopped me in my tracks.

I called him into the kitchen, aware that I had to take advantage of this opportunity to teach, this opportunity for him to learn, and sat him down at the table.

“You know Ian, for Andrew, every sound he makes, ever little moan, every little whine, there is a purpose behind it. I know it can be frustrating for you, for all of us sometimes, but you have to remember that for him, it’s how he communicates with the world. He cannot say “I’m frustrated!” or “My head hurts!” or “I really need that red Lego that’s next to you.”  He does what he can to express himself and uses these noises to get our attention. So no matter how annoying they are, please, always and forever remember that there is a reason for them. Each of those noises matter. Each of those noises tell us something. And he is counting on us to try and figure out what they mean.”

I gave my son a kiss on the head, and sent him back into his bedroom.


It was a very important learning opportunity.


For me.


*Being non-verbal is like being trapped. Andrew exists in a world where the majority of people cannot understand what he needs, wants, desires. Which is why it’s so important for me, for Ian, for Mikey, for all of us that are part of his village, to remember that every.whine.counts.

** He put himself in there. It’s not latched. It’s not even ours. So please don’t email me/comment on how cruel it is to cage my child.  We were at a party and this was in the homeowner’s backyard. It was the calmest I had seen him all night.

***Which leads me to believe that maybe getting one isn’t such a bad idea.

****Relax. I’m kidding. Sort of.

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5 Replies to “A Lesson Learned”

  1. I’ll bet Ian grows up to be a wise, patient, compassionate, intelligent man – the world needs more of these. Hey, perhaps he will even know how to interpret the secret language of women. A codebreaker in the making–thanks to your astute tutelage.

    The cage. Hmmmm. Perhaps Andrew felt very safe in there. Self-imposed boundaries to make his world, and his needs temporarily smaller, less demanding, less immediate…

  2. Your last comment…about kidding. Sort of. I have to say made me smile.
    I am a teacher that does not have a sped degree, just a “regular” one that has found her passion working with incredible children like Andrew.
    No, I don’t personally provide cages like the one pictured…but some of the families I work with have them at home…for their child(ren). Of course, they aren’t ever “sent” there and they are never locked…but the kids LOVE them…small, cave-like, private space that seems to calm and make then more comfortable when the world around them gets to be a little (a lot) much.
    I say go for it…buy one. 🙂

  3. Of course I have to start by saying (again), you’re awesome! But also, how about a big cardboard box? It seems like every kid loves to make forts, and a big empty box (maybe with a quilt inside?) is such a great fort-starter! My little bug used his for years, and colored all over it with crayons (and stickers, gotta have stickers). Just a thought! Miss you!


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