Communication Breakdown


In exciting news this week, we learned that Happy Chin can learn to speak in complete sentences with the help of his trusty iPad and some highly useful Apps.

Ah, technology! We love it, Happy Chin loves it. His iPad has been a very successful addition to his life. Small enough to cart around with him, but large enough to make it very difficult to lose, it now goes everywhere with him.

What a wonderful connected world we inhabit! So many possibilities are opened up. Previously these kinds of technological outcomes would only have been available to the wealthy, but I am pleased to say we are currently applying to the NDIS to have this technology included in Liam’s plan and we’re reasonably confident of success. I’ll keep you posted.

This is an absolutely mind-blowing outcome for the many people whose lives will shortly be impacted in a positive way by the national NDIS rollout. I for one feel so excited about the future as we contemplate all of the people previously inhibited by communication challenges who will now be able to lead meaningful and active lives.

To be understood by another person is one of the most basic of our human needs. How frustrating must it be to have to continually repeat yourself, or attempt to act out your meaning, and how unsurprising that so many behaviour patterns have emerged in the past for Happy Chin as he’s struggled to get the most basic point across?

I remember the Tutenhat years with great clarity. For about 3 years Tutenhat was one of Liam’s key utterances. We tried and tried to understand. So did his grandparents, aunties, cousins, carers and volunteers. We could not get him to give us any more information other than ‘Tutenhat’ repeated over and over. It was absolutely mystifying.

Then one day Baby Lamington, Happy Chin, Toddler Tech Support and I were watching an episode of Bananas in Pyjamas. Morgan (one of the Teddy Bears) was preparing pumpkin soup and wearing…wait for it…a cooking hat! ‘Tutenhat’ turned out to be a white chef’s hat! Luckily we had one in the dress up box and spent the rest of the afternoon sailing round the house clutching wooden spoons and shouting ‘Tutenhat!’

The relief at having finally discovered the meaning of the word was so great that when Mr
August arrived home from work, I raced to the front door wearing the hat in question and shouted ‘Tutenhat! Tutenhat!” at the top of my voice while dancing on the spot.

He looked at me like I’d completely lost my mind (a highly possible outcome when one spends all day at home with two small children and a baby), then happily joined in the general celebration.

Another frustrating communication roadblock was ‘Ask.’

‘If you want something, you have to ask,’ we told Happy Chin.

So he wanted something. And would come into the kitchen.

‘Ask,’ he would say.

‘What are you asking for?’


“Yes, but you have to tell me what it is you’re asking for.’




Happy Chin is blessed in that he is able to satisfy many of his own needs. He can get his own drink or snack, go to the toilet, move about the house, communicate fairly well.

For those with more complex needs, technology could prove an absolute godsend. Imagine not being able to scratch your own nose, tell someone you were thirsty, even express the need for a hug or kiss from someone you loved?

I heard a story recently about a young man who had been involved in an accident and sustained injuries which led to quadriplegia. He had a new iPad and his younger brother was asked for his thoughts on what should be included to help facilitate ease of communication for his older brother, who was unable to speak.

The boy thought for a minute.

‘My nappy’s giving me a wedgie,’ he offered decisively.

Now that’s the sort of thing you really want to be able to tell someone!