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When My Friend Wondered What My Son's Aides Do for Him

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ollie smiling


Because of Ollie we have so many unique and incredible gifts. Anyone that meets him knows he’s a keeper! This kid will light up a room, make enemies become friends, and tell every single person he “loves them”(complete stranger or not). But with this ball of wonderfulness, comes a challenge hidden to the untrained eye. Beneath it all, is an intelligent little boy with thousands of thoughts, desires and hopes… but held captive by his ability to express himself fully.

Recently I was explaining to a friend who Ollie’s aides were and how often they came. My friend, being one of those great inquirers, asked, “What do you need them for? What do they do for Ollie?”

I had to sit on that for a while. What do they do for Ollie? He’s doing so much better with toilet-ing and walking. He’s signing like a champ. What does one do for Ollie?

I can’t say it hit me like a ton of bricks or anything dramatic like that, but I slowly peeled away my “little stinky onion” and realized my hidden challenge with Ollie is helping him communicate exactly what it is that he wants or is excited to talk about.

back of a school bus

Ollie’s bus.

For example: Ollie signs “bus” at least 12 times a day, and all I can think, and carefully ask, is…

The bus from yesterday?

You want to go on a bus?

You want to see a bus?

You dreamt about a bus?

You didn’t like the bus?

You went on a bus and hated it?

You went on a bus and loved it?

You want to talk about buses in general?

You want to read a book about a bus?

That’s nine different bus” opportunities! And I can only give Ollie two or three options at at time. So where do I begin?

The day before, he had ridden on the summer school bus for one hour without anyone familiar. Before the bus even pulled away from the house, he was signing that he wanted to go home while holding back tears. It was a tricky day full of mommy tears and check-ins.

But later that day after I picked him up in “mommy’s car,” he wanted to talk about the bus. And he’s such a brave-hearted champ, he had a smile on his face!

What does this mean?!

It was then I started to think about the most challenging aspect of raising my kiddo with special needs. It’s the fact that despite his best efforts, and ours, our communication is still limited. We have to be creative all of the time in order to inspire conversation and connection.

Ollie is brimming with ideas and thoughts. He lights up when engaging with people and he becomes really annoyed when left to sit and play by himself.

What does one do for Ollie?

He or she asks questions, waits patiently, introduces new concepts, reads his cues, uses sign language, and is 100 percent OK with giving him the gift of uninterrupted eye contact.

Ollie will win every staring contest, hands down. I call it his “mind meld.”

When Ollie gets this uninterrupted time, his little love tank is full to the brim. His brain is engaged. He’s full of life.

I cannot express the deep joy and satisfaction I experience when a friend (or stranger!) takes this challenge of communication on, even for just a couple minutes.

Seeing people reach across the great divide (aka: language and disability barriers) is what keeps my heart light. Similar to Ollie, my love tank gets filled as well.

Follow this journey on Because of Ollie

Originally published: August 4, 2016
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