One Big Emotion, One Small Cue

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“My turn!  My turn!” Declan exclaimed, so we all bowed our heads again for family prayer time to continue.

We were all prepared and began to smile.

“Dear Lord.  I am having a bad day.  Bobby HIT me.”  And for good measure, Declan rolled his sleeve up and pointed to his arm.

“Right HERE.  Bobby make bad choices and hit me.  Amen.”

“Amen.” We all said in unison together.

Declan’s prayers were a time of confession.  Not of the bad deeds Declan committed, but more about the transgressions of others against Declan.  He was not happy, he was not mad – his feelings were lukewarm and talking about these feelings in prayer – well, it seemed to set everything right again.

But how do I know when he is REALLY mad?

“I am so mad right now.  I am not happy.  I do not want to be a part of this family ANYMORE.  I am going to leave.  I will not play outside ANYMORE.  I will only read books.” Declan insisted.  We looked at him and he added for good measure, “BAD BOOKS!”

We had been at our local sporting goods store looking at softball equipment for Catelyn, who will be playing softball this spring.  As we looked at gloves, bats and helmets Declan played.  He played soccer for a bit.  Then he put a sled on the ground and began riding down imaginary snow hills.

But lo and behold, we did not go to the exercise equipment.  The part of the store that turns the store into Chuck E Cheese to Declan.  A place for Declan to play.  To punch punching bags, to jump on trampolines and move on elliptical machines.  Instead we left and went to the car and continued to hear:

“And I will NEVER eat candy again.  I AM SO MAD!”

We told him we loved him.  And that we did not want him to leave the family.  That we wanted him to have fun.  My husband and I were super proud he was TELLING us his feelings.  And to be honest, it was so cute it was a little funny.  I mean, books?  BAD BOOKS?

We got home and about an hour later, I saw it.  “Oh no!” I thought and called for Declan.

You see, on our fridge is a magnet.  A funny little magnet that I have kept that reminds of my 3 kids.  It is a resting place for 3 removable monkeys: Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.  I had always likened the 3 monkeys to the 3 kids.


“Hear no evil” is Catelyn – only because she doesn’t listen to anything anyone tells her (although she is getting better at that).

“See no evil” is Bobby – because he can’t find anything, even if the missing item is sitting right in front of him.

“Speak no evil” is Declan – plainly because he lost his speech and could not speak for so long.


And whenever Declan is REALLY mad – he takes “Speak no evil” out of the container.  He knows that I think he is that monkey in the trio.  It’s how he leaves the family.  And it is when I know I need to give him some BIG love.

Yesterday, Declan was really mad.  And he left the family.  I love this cue of Declan’s.  A simple cue that everything is not alright.  Every mad moment isn’t always expressed with words, but the monkey usually always disappears.  I got to Declan, we put the monkey back, we gave lots of hugs.  Then we talked some more about his feelings.

And we changed, “I feel MAD” to “I feel glad!”

And the next time we go to the sports store, I think we will be spending some extra time at the machines.


13 thoughts on “One Big Emotion, One Small Cue

  1. That is so awesome that he has not only verbal, but a visual way to express his feelings! Ben just knocks over chairs, trash cans, toys…He’s still working on the verbal part. I’m glad the monkey came back to join his sibs on the fridge.

    1. I know! I was so happy to hear him express his feelings with words then with this little innocuos cue. Such a big change from where we before! I’m cheering for Ben!

  2. Oh my gosh, I could so hug this adorable guy! I sometimes wonder how much easier it would be if we just spoke our minds. Really wonderful that you allow them to communicate their feelings.

  3. I love this post! Our kids are so unique and each one weaves the web of our family. When they do those funny things when they’re angry, it makes it difficult not to smile, which would only upset them more.

  4. Think this is a wonderful way he has leaarned to express his feelings! Was expecting a much worse public breakdown scene description from you from the post’s title. Was thinking of him throwing things and being otherwise extremely destructive. He has come a long way in his communication skills! You guys have worked miracles with your childrens special abilities!

    1. I cannot believe how well he communicated his feelings! And you’re right – I was prepared for hitting or destruction. Instead he just used his “I’m mad” words. Such a huge change! So thankful for all the teachers and support staff that have worked with him and helped us to get him to this wonderful spot. There are more good days than bad, and that is really something special!

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