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Wish Nation

Communicating With Non-Verbal Wish Kids

One of the cornerstones of Make-A-Wish is ensuring that we grant a child’s one true wish … that we give life to that particular child’s vision of life at its best. But what happens when a child’s medical condition impedes the ability to communicate? Make-A-Wish staff members and volunteers have a solution. Georgianna, a wish granter for Make-A-Wish Connecticut who has granted more than 150 wishes, shares how she overcomes this challenge. She provides some great insights for people curious about how Make-A-Wish works – and even for other wish granters around the country.

nonverbal, Make-A-Wish, volunteerThe magic of making a wish come true begins when you first meet your wish child and exploring possibilities. Children who are verbally challenged and unable to communicate pose a challenge to the wish granter in determining their one true wish. Although they may not be able to communicate verbally to express their wishes, they may each have their own unique way of communicating. Before the initial wish visit, wish granters can discuss ways the child may be able to communicate by discussing the situation with their parents/parent. This helps us prepare for the initial visit and to craft a method to communicate with the wish child.

Wish granters often give “ice-breaker” gifts to wish kids on the initial visit, and we can tailor these gifts to each child. When we conduct your initial phone interview, we discuss with their parents/parent the child’s likes and interests. Balloons are also a nice means of introduction.

We often develop a “picture-board” with wish categories such as “I wish to have”, “I wish to be”, “I wish to meet” and “I wish to go” and/or pictures of wishes for the child to see. This creates a visual connection that we can use to determine the child’s true wish. We ask them how it would make them feel to have their wish granted … what would it feel like, smell like and sound like?

nonverbal, Make-A-Wish, volunteerWe can also create a game show format such as “Let’s Make A Wish” with wish-related categories behind Door #1, Door #2 and Door #3. “What’s My Wish?” can be a guessing game where the wish granters and the family ask questions of the child to guess their wish. We are attentive and patient to cues/gestures that the wish child may provide – facial expression and sound, for example.

We also ask wish kids to draw several wishes in each category on small erasable boards. We lay all the wishes face down and choose 2 or 3 at random and hold them up. Then we ask wish kids which is their favorite and continue until they name their favorite wish.

Sometimes, I use a portable DVD player to show videos of certain wish types and watch for the child’s reaction. This can be very effective should the child not be able to participate in some of the other methods.

There may be situations where we need to rely upon the family to provide information to arrive at the one true wish.

But, above all, we have fun during the wish visit and keep the wish child as the center of attention!


About this Blog

Wish Nation gives you a behind-the-scenes look at Make-A-Wish®. See how wishes come together and how they change lives forever. Hear directly from those who work or volunteer here, or those who have been transformed by a wish. And learn why we are so committed to someday granting the wish of every eligible child, every year.

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