PALAK'S SELF-TALK HELPED ME READ HER MIND
Palak was six years of age when she got admission in 1st STD in TATA Girls' high school, Navsari. I was under terrible stress & tension. My worries were multifaceted.
· I was worried about her acceptance by school teachers & students.
· She was at Ahmedabad & completed her JR/SR KG there. The acceptance of new school by Palak was a major point of worry.
· Till then, she was with my father for 7-8 months every year since she was 10 months old. The care she got at Ahmedabad was beyond everything. I was tensed because I was not confident to match with my father's efforts.
· Till that date I just followed the time-table prepared by my father when Palak stayed with us. I was not sure whether I would be able to evaluate her needs, her milestones etc.
· My self expectations rose so high because my father, being a non-medico person, could do a lot for Palak.
· I was worried about Palak's psyche as she had to stay with us thereafter permanently without my parents.
· I decided to decrease my working hours to less than half & Piyush agreed. That gave rise to few more issues of bank loans & financial securities.
It took me three months to calm down.
My self-talks were;
· I am not here to prove myself to anyone.
· My father is my father....!!! What's a big deal???? I can always seek his help even in the middle of the night.
· I am not in competition with my father..!!!
· My biggest strength is my degree...I'll accept a job if required to compensate the financial imbalance.
Now the only point left was to know about Palak's psyche. What must be going through her mind was a major & most important concern.
HER HABIT OF SELF-TALK HELPED ME TO LISTEN TO HER INNER VOICE.
While changing clothes in her room Palak said 'The classroom is so dirty....papers.. papers everywhere....' I was standing outside the room & before asking her the meaning, I went to meet the class teacher the next day. Palak used to tear papers from her note book & used to throw everywhere in the class. In spite of teacher's repeated instructions, she continued doing that. I talked to the teacher & told her to ask Palak to clean the room before she leaves the class rather than instructing not to tear papers. Within a week's time she stopped tearing papers. There must be some inner turmoil & it is very difficult to find out the reason in our children but through their self-talks, at least, you can judge to some extent & work upon.
There are many incidences where listening to Palak's self-talk helped us a lot. It was at its peak when my son went for further studies abroad. We used to share Palak's self- talks with my son Purvaj & worked on it together.
I would write conclusions based on my own experiences and the literature I went through while understanding Palak.
USUAL TOPICS OF SELF-TALK
The self talks usually involve the child himself/herself, a person or an event happened.
You may find a child talking with a toy.
Child may play a role of a character in a movie or a serial, a friend, a family member, a teacher etc.
At times you may find the child talking about the whole day's activity. (Palak still does this. This helps them to synchronize the events)
If you listen carefully you may find them complaining about a person or an event.
Self-talk is an important coping tool with self.
When a child wants to express the inner feelings the child relies on self talk.
When a child admires someone & wants to be like him/her the child creates an imaginary world with self talk
At times self-talk may be the only entertainment available when the child is alone for long periods of time or he/she does not find something more interesting to do.
When a child is planning or rehearsing an activity, the child practices that with self-talk. I have observed Palak doing this many times.
While working out with a problem, the child takes help of self-talk.
When a child is frustrated, sad, threatened or stressed he/she relies on self-talk to vent the negative feelings.
When child does not feel connected with the surrounding or when feel bored or lonely, child starts loud self-talk in public.
Our children are habituated to follow instructions. At times self-talk is a part of self-instruction.
As I stated earlier in my blog on 'strengths of kids with DS', our children's minds get programmed strongly. Usually once programmed, they enjoy sticking to the programme. When something other than programmed happens, self- talk starts.
They have their own world of fantasies..and to remain in their fantasies they rely on self-talk.
At times because of lack of communicative skills/opportunities they satisfy themselves through self talk.
Our children can't share that easily because they have a few close friends. They create an imaginary friend & talk/share.
HOW IT HELPS US
This is the best way to know their liking otherwise they are so friendly that you would never know who/what is bothering them.
I am doing counseling since many years. If a child with DS is found disturbed psychologically, counseling is not an option. You cannot take out the desired information from him/her. Listening to his/her self-talks serve as a base for finding reasons & solutions.
Self-talk of your child provides you with an information about what is going on in your child’s life.
If you notice sudden increase in your child's use of self-talk, it's an alarm. Child may be in need of help.
Our children's self-talk help us to coordinate their actions and thoughts. Accordingly we can help them learn new skills. For example, if you find that your child admires some character, you can encourage your child for acting, drama & do some activities related to it at home.
WHAT CAN BE DONE
Self-talk is normal. We just need to interfere when
· When it has increased suddenly
· When the underlying feeling is rage, depression, anger or frustration.
· When it is in public
· When child avoids sitting/talking/playing with others & keeping busy with self-talk.
START WALKING WITH YOUR CHILD. It would be easier for us to stand at one place & show the path but would be difficult for our children to follow. Instead start walking with your child. You express your feeling freely to create a conducive environment. Share your own experience of self talks with your child. This will release the child to a great extent. Now explain your child using the colours of traffic signal.
GREEN: You can continue self-talk loudly in your own room
YELLOW: You may continue self-talk loudly in your house if that is not disturbing anyone, but prefer to do it silently.
RED: You cannot do self-talk loudly, if at all it is needed do it silently.
By doing this you are passing a message that you are not discouraging the act of self-talk. Your child will become receptive & will follow your instructions.
Emphasize the learning using flashcards, smiley, 'right' & 'wrong' signs etc.
We have already gone through private/public in my previous blog on 'sex education & children with DS'. You can incorporate the topic of 'self-talk' in it.
When you feel that the self-talk of your child needs to be tackled, try to find out few things;
- About whom/what
- The underlying feeling
- Mood of your child before & after
But don't stretch too much in finding the reason. Even if you can't figure out the reason, start sharing your own experiences. Make the environment friendly and interesting. Do some activities the child is interested in.
IN SHORT, THE HABIT OF SELF-TALK IS AN AID TO US
Today as I was writing this blog Palak got frustrated because I didn't go for lunch. Just before an hour I took a break & went upstairs to eat something. Palak was very unhappy with me & was engrossed in her self-talk. She said,"If she was not to come for lunch at least she should inform me..this is not done"
I sat with her & apologized for my irresponsible behavior & she smiled happily as ever...!!!
WISHING YOU ALL THE VERY BEST IN YOUR LIFE