My son is non-verbal. I've been trying for years to find the right communication system for him, but to date the best indicator of what he wants to say is his body language. He reaches, pushes things away, claps when the answer is yes, and gives looks to kill when he's annoyed. He also uses his eyes.
Nearly every morning when I go into his room and wake him, he smiles. His big brown eyes light up, and I know he's happy.
Communicating with someone who cannot speak is one way to fine tune your intuition. Since Daniel can't say or type what he feels or needs, it is a necessity to read his eyes and body language. Sometimes it goes beyond just picking up on non-verbal cues and going with gut instinct.
I find that when I can really slow down and observe patiently, I get it more often than not. Sharing thoughts and emotions in the absence of spoken language is an art. There are cues I use when I need to figure out what Daniel wants me to know.
He covers his face with his hands when he's embarrassed. He has a low grade cry when he's bored or unhappy. His heartbeat speeds up if he is in pain or hungry. There's a very specific growl he uses when he's angry that we're not picking up on what he wants us to know.
Sometimes I tune in on another level. Once when he was staying with his father overnight (years ago, before those visits ended) I woke up dreaming that he was being injected with a needle. Minutes later I got a call saying he was having a seizure, and his father gave him IM valium.
I've been able on occasion to sit with him when he's sick and just quietly "listen" for signals from my own body to let me know where he hurts or what the trouble is. I once felt throat pain very briefly, and it turned out after a trip to the peds office that he had a virus that included a sore throat. This is a technique I want to develop. If I can get a sense of where the problem is, I can be of more help to him.
I haven't given up on communication goals. We're hoping for a new school placement that's going to support us more in helping him with the iPad and other techniques. That should happen soon if the district cooperates. In the meantime, I'm listening.