It was late one Sunday morning at the end of spring break, and Clay couldn’t stop crying. We were all frustrated.
Was he sad? Angry? In pain? Since he is nonverbal, it is a guessing game based on body language and other circumstances. Sometimes a mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes. He banged his head a few times with his fist. That often means he has a headache. While the rest of us seek quiet and soft lighting when our head hurts, we’ve learned that Clay often reacts in the opposite manner, becoming loud and mobile. We know we guessed correctly if he quiets down about 30 minutes later. Sometimes he bangs his head with his fist because his brain is not working the way he would want. As if he is trying to kick start it. Sometimes he is frustrated about something he can’t do. Hard to know for sure.
But now that Clay is learning to use a talking keyboard, we had an opportunity to get an answer directly from the source.
Getting him to type when he is already agitated, generally doesn’t yield the most productive results. Typing is a challenge for him in the best of circumstances. Now factor in that he is crying. His nose is running. He sometimes pulls the front of his shirt into his mouth. He is on the move. Flinging himself backwards onto our bed. Rolling in the tight space between the sofa and the coffee table wrapped in his comforter. My wife grabbed the keyboard anyway, and went after him, determined to get an answer.
The following exchange took place in the keyboard’s robotic voice with the two of them standing at the kitchen counter:
“What is wrong?”
“What about school are you worried about?”
After a week at home, he was nervous about heading back to school the next day. Like many other kids in middle school. We would have liked a more in-depth answer, but Clay had stopped crying and was headed outside to enjoy a sunny Sunday afternoon. Feelings shared. Mystery solved.