emery's speech {our non-verbal world}

there are some things you only notice when someone else makes you aware of them.
last week, i had a moment of awareness.

it was during a conversation with a lady at the park. she was very curious and sweetly asked questions about emery, her story, future surgeries, etc. she marveled at how well emery understood everything that was said to her and even got to see some of the silly miss emery we see all the time. (she doesn't let her guard down around many people. our silly, spunky girl usually plays shy when we are in public).

emery chattered and talked and had a whole conversation with the park lady.
and then the lady said, "so, is she deaf??"
the question rung in the air.

after i recovered for a moment, i told the lady about emery's new lips and how much reconditioning it takes for her to relearn sounds.
(i didn't want to make the lady feel bad, so i didn't even mention her palate surgery and nasal reconstruction and the extreme hard work it takes for a child post surgery to configure her tongue and lips and roof of her mouth to produce the correct sounds. not to mention the fistula (hole) that is naturally still inside her mouth on her gum line which won't be repaired until she is 8 or 10 years old and is bone grafted together. there is a lot more to speech than meets the eye.)

it wasn't the question that stunned me. i have no problem with deafness. in fact, it was one of the needs we were open to when we adopted.
i was stunned by the realization that other people don't understand what she's saying.

to us, it's as if she is speaking, clear as day.
what might sound mumbled is very clearly telling me nearly everything i need to know. it's not her words...it's her expressions, hands, tone, body language, eye contact...and a knowing of her needs that feels verbal even though it isn't.

i'm not saying i understand 100% of what she wants 100% of the time...there are plenty of times i know she is frustrated, but i don't understand why. or times i know she is fuming mad but we can't talk it out because her words don't yet overpower her trigger to scream.

but what we do know? it's astounding to sit and document. last week, she told me that she prefers me to sit by her bed and sing to her, instead of holding her because she likes to hold my hand through the bars of her crib as she falls asleep. every night, she asks me to leave the door open and turn on her fan. she tells me which blanket is her favorite and that she wants to drink out of a straw instead of a sippy cup. she tells me which shoes she wants to wear and which dresses freak her out because she doesn't like the feel of the fabric. she tells me it's time for her bottle, when she's cold, that the wind is blowing her hair or there is a kitty outside the window. she hears an airplane and tells me right away because she wants us to do the "airplane" sound together. she tells me when someone has stolen her toy or when the dog is licking her hands. she tells me when she doesn't want to take another bite, even though i have asked her to. i know when she asks for "help" in a certain way she needs help, but when she asks "help" in another way it's because she wants to be the helper.

she is specific...oh so specific.
and yet, she has only 7 or 8 verbal words that an outsider could understand.

mama, bye-bye, hiya, meow, night-night, gu-gu (chinese for brother), ball, more

(FYI: we work closely with a speech therapist each week and emery knows tons of sign language, but we are working to use sign language minimally so her verbal ability will grow)

all week i've been hearing her sounds, her thoughtful chatter, and hearing that lady's remark in my head.
and i've decided: words are overrated.

maybe her words are just a bit shy like her silliness...they aren't quite ready for the world to experience them...
we get to cherish them just for ourselves for a bit longer.


  1. words are SO over-rated! Oh just wait when these girls get their words....WATCH OUT WORLD!! cause if they can talk THIS much w/o "understandable words"....can you imagine how much they will color the world with their bounty of words when they really get them!!!! :)))
    Yet, Isn't it awesome to have such a close bond with our daughters, that words aren't even needed or necessary.

    Ahhhh, I prayed so hard for that bond!
    What a gift for us to experience it!

    And, I just love her beautiful lips! and, I know those words will flow out like water in no time!!

  2. I love this! And honestly, doesn't every single child, no matter their "origins," go through this stage? There was a seemingly endless time in our biological daughter's life that our family understood perfectly what she needed or wanted, but outsiders just couldn't quite get it. It seems like a such a short phase looking back, but there were many times I wondered if and when we would make it through that.... now she won't stop talking no matter what we do!! The same is true for our son. He has simple words that he uses, but they speak volumes more to us.

    I heard an interesting "statistic" just yesterday- by the time our adopted children are home for one year, they usually understand what we are telling them almost completely (receptive language). We hit that benchmark around 4-6 months home. And I know Emery is absolutely there already. This woman went on to say, by the time the kids are home 2 years, they have usually almost completely "caught up" with peers on their spoken words. So, I have no worries whatsoever for our children. They are all so special, and honestly, doesn't everyone do some things on their own timetable? It's what makes us unique!

  3. That's love. When you love someone so deeply you understand them.

  4. My husband calls me the baby whisperer. But it's so easy if you tune yourself into a child, not just listening to their words, but actually listen to whats going on in their world, and you can almost always understand what they are talking about. I love reading about the blessings your family has been able to give Miss Emory, and all the blessings she has given to your family :)

    1. **Miss. EMERY! sorry. :-p

  5. I love seeing and hearing you two communicate. It's really the sweetest thing!! Xoxo!!

  6. i love seeing emery through your eyes - the way God knit her together just right for your family. when you talk about her speech, surgeries, etc. i have to remind myself that she is considered "special needs" by so many. because seeing her in the light of your words and photos, she's just a little girl with her own set of abilities and needs. what a blessed little lady and what a thankful family she has!

  7. Angie.............She is Positivley Precious and Perfect!!!!!!!! People really need to think before they speak. So frustrating!!!!!!!!!! You and Emery are just to cute. So Crazy........we had deafness put down for one of our special needs too. :)Great minds think a like. LOL

  8. I love how you understand each other! I had a similar moment in which a stranger was asking me questions about Ben. I explained to her that he already had some surgeries. She replied, "ya, I can see that." Sometimes I forget that it is obvious.

  9. Love this post! And LOVE the pic of your 3 helpers with their tools in their undies!

  10. So sweet to read about the things Emery likes to communicate to her Mama. I imagine it must be an interesting parenting experience to help her find her voice. I think you two are starting to look alike, with some shared facial expressions.

  11. Amazing post...you are an Amazimg mom! Love your relationship with your sweet Emery... she's one special girl!

  12. This is such a sweet post that I could SO relate to. Our biological son is 4.5 years old now and has a pretty severe language impairment. When he was Emery's age, I could understand ALL those things you mentioned, but noone could understand what he said. Heck, even I couldn't understand a lot of what he said! and, he only knew very few words. He is so much better now. We are in the very first stages of adoption from China and I know that God had a plan....we endured all of that with our son for a reason and it only prepared us for what's to come. I feel like if I made it through all THAT with him, I can make it through anything because there were some tough times! Love your blog! blessings, cat (www.catdmoore.com)

  13. I agree, words are so over-rated!

  14. Some people consider talk to be the primary form of communication...however, I have heard many people say things they do not mean. I have said things and acted differently myself.....From the experiences that I have had since we have been home with our daughter (5 months) I can tell you... when she tells me she loves me...its not always with words. Its with the way she lingers in my arms or lays her head on my shoulder, or kisses me, for no reason. Or the way she tells me she trusts me when she is standing at the edge of the bed and falls, without hesitation, into my arms. So much has been said between us during times when the least amount of words were spoken. Praising our Father for the communication between hearts.




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