Which is your comfort language?

“With languages, you are at home anywhere.”

Edward De Waal

Ever wondered why do we have comfort over our native language despite being fluent in English or some other language that is not our mother tongue? Why is that given a chance we would switch to our native language unknowingly? Why do heartfelt conversations sound more meaningful in a language that runs in our blood? 

Have you ever visited a place where no one understood the language you spoke in? Have you felt that frustration of not being able to communicate what is on your mind, and at the same time being puzzled by whatever is being spoken around you?

Though, I have not been a traveler but have had one such opportunity to experience this myself when I had attended a wedding with my Gujju relatives. They could understand Hindi but in a wedding environment, preferred Gujarati for all the conversations. The biggest shocker was to see my own Hindi speaking mom-in-law turn into a Gujarati speaking woman. I stayed there for three days but was not comfortable for even three minutes. Not that I wasn’t treated well; I got so much attention and care from everyone, but I did not understand a word that was spoken around me or at times about me! It was quite frustrating.

When we hear stuff that is beyond our language and comprehension, we don’t usually attempt to understand it. We don’t try Google; we just go blank. We all are like that. Don’t trust me; go and attend a workshop in a language that you have no clue about. After the first couple of minutes, you will automatically shut; either your eyes will start searching for someone who can help you understand, or your mind will start to look for escape methods.

“A different language is a different vision of life.”

Federico Fellino

Children with special needs are no different. All they want is to be understood and communicate in their own way. When you use a language that is too complex, it becomes overwhelming for them and they prefer to shut. It may come across as non-compliant behavior, but it’s far from being a behavior issue. 

Kids with autism process and understand spoken language very differently from a typical person. You need to keep it consistent, short, and calm. You have to make multiple attempts in simpler language to make yourself understood, and at the same time, you have to celebrate every broken word that comes out of their tiny mouth. Just the feeling of you being able to comprehend what they wanted to communicate will work as a reinforcer, and they would repeat it 1000 times over.

If you happen to meet a child with autism for the first time, then do observe the communication pattern between the child and the parents before jumping the gun. It’s not that they don’t wish to engage with you, rather they struggle with the complexity and newness of your style. A little bit of help from your side can make them comfortable and a lot more communicative.

A language that helps them feel loved and understood is the language they prefer. Trust me, it is not that difficult, learn it today 🙂

Here are some more tips to connect with kids on the spectrum –

  1. Do make the effort to talk to them
  2. Choose a topic as per their interest
  3. Be patient, kind, and flexible
  4. Use gestures along with words
  5. Keep it short and to the point
  6. Say what you mean
  7. Be affectionate and respectful

Wait for my next blog for the details on the above tips and more. Meanwhile, check out my book, When I Met the “Unexpected” – A Guide For All Parents, to learn more about autism and tips on making this world an inclusive place. It’s now available in Hindi as well. 

Now Available in Hindi Also

Praise For The Book
Choose English Version if that’s your comfort language.

Stay tuned and make a genuine attempt to connect with people around you 🙂

Take care, see you soon.

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