Bridging Comprehension Gaps

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“I’m sorry I wouldn’t share with you.  And I am sorry about the fire.”

“Fire?  What fire?!”

I am trying to stay calm, cool, collected.  I sniff the air for the scent of smoke – I get nothing.

“Baymax says that to Hiro Hamada…”I’m sorry about the fire.”” says Declan as he walks away with the kindle I just handed him.

“Oh.  Yes.  From “Big Hero 6,” huh.  Okay.” I say.

So many times I am confused by what Declan says.  He takes something from another context and may misapply into another life event.  So many times Declan is confused by what I say.  He will try to apply what he understands into what I am asking of him.  For example,

“Declan, please find your shorts and put them on.”

“I am wearing a shirt.”

“I know.  You need shorts.”

He looks at me.  I look at him.  I sign language “pants.”

“Pants!” I say.

“Ohhh.  OKAY!”  and off he goes in search of his shorts.  But to him, shorts and shirt are the same word.


“My father is all gone.  He is dead.”

“No he isn’t, Declan.  Daddy is at work.”

“DADDY is at work.  My FATHER is dead.”

“Declan, daddy is your father.”

“NO HE ISN’T!!!!”

So, I am still not sure on this one.  I do not know who Declan has defined as his father.  But it sure isn’t his daddy.  Declan is pure emotion.  When he is telling you something is not so, his screaming is fierce.

Or, one of my favorites:

“Declan, you are such a silly billy.”

“No, I’m not, I’m DECLAN!”


Language comprehension/confusion can be small to big, funny to confusing.  A lot of times Declan is looking at me, I am looking at him and we are confused by each other.  We try to find ways to bridge our communication understanding gap.  There have been times Declan needed to understand what I was saying quickly.  If there is ever an emergency, I am going to need Declan to respond fast.  I spend the most time with Declan, so I speak “Declan” the best.  What if a stranger was trying to get Declan to respond?  Here is what I find works best:

Bridging Language Comprehension Gaps

  1.  Use less language – Use the least amount of words to get to your point
  2. Use clarifying language – make those 3 words you chose really pack a punch
  3. Ambiguity/sarcasm is lost.  Be Direct
  4. Are you dealing with a concrete thinker?  Use facts.  Try “It is raining heavy” vs “It is raining cats and dogs”
  5. Some words sound alike – use a different but familiar word instead of the confusing word.  For example, “pants” instead of “shorts”
  6. Sign language, or describe with your hands.  “Pants” is actually an easy one – just pull up a pair of air pants.  That’s “pants.”  To eat, put a piece of air food in your fingers and put it in your mouth.  That’s “eat.”  Even if you don’t know the actual sign, you can try and bridge that communication gap by making your best guess to get your message across with your hands.
  7. I told you this is a favorite in this house – SING IT!  So many times Declan can go into his own world.  The best way for me to bring him out?  SING!!!  Declan loves a good song.


There are a lot of times Declan and I are communicating, but neither is getting a message across.  Words are being used, but the message is still lost.  One of us isn’t understanding the other.  Finding ways to bridge those comprehension gaps is key.

How about you?  What do you do to help bridge those gaps?  Let me know!





2 thoughts on “Bridging Comprehension Gaps

  1. Communication is difficult here as well. Tyson barely speaks. He has names for all of us in the house but no words. He signs please and more, but doesn’t understand please doesn’t always go with yes. I know when he wants something by his pointing fingers, but when he’s hurting or scared , there are no easy answers, mostly hit and miss.

    1. It is so hard to try and find those bridges to help the gaps in communication. Declan is able to vocalize his wants, needs and feelings at this point, although they do not always make sense to me (and I do not always make sense to him). We keep working on it and I try to just keep making sure he knows that I am always listening, ready to try again.

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