Communication is More Than That

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Little Man hugging a pack of strawberries he picked out.

I feel like we’ve hit some sort of turning point with Little Man, though I can’t explain exactly why. His speech has gotten immensely better over the last year. He actually passed his annual vocabulary acquisition goal in school after only four months. It’s more than that though.

In the beginning there were only nouns. Nouns are fine and dandy, but they’re not always helpful. What if you don’t know the word for something? What if you’re trying to say something related to a feeling? Or something that happened? Being able to ask for cheese by saying “cheese” is not the same thing as having a conversation. It’s one-sided and only works with caretakers who give a damn what you want. The world isn’t like that. Nouns are good, but we needed more.

Early on in the school year there was an incident on the playground. My daughter is in TK so we play on the Kindergarten playground before school starts. While there are a few toddlers here and there, my son, being three, is big enough to play on all the equipment with the five and six year-olds. In the beginning it was really rough. Sometimes girls would chase him around, calling him a baby. He couldn’t talk so that’s what he was to them- a big, cute baby. They violated his personal space with hugs and were shocked when he shoved them away. I intervened a few times and they stopped. The boys would run by and knock him down, completely unaware that they had even done so, and my son had no proper way to respond.

One time a boy ran by and knocked off Little Man’s hat. He stood there, shaking with indignation, and let loose a tirade of gibberish at the offending boy. His target also stood motionless, completely oblivious to what was going on and why it was directed at him. Since his words were having no effect my son attempted to hit. I blocked him several times while doing my best to talk him down. The yard lady came over and asked what was going on and I had to explain. My son was trying his best to use his words, but they did no good as they were indecipherable.

School means more interactions with peers and it has lead to an increase in aggressive behavior. I’ve told ABA to work on functional language. He needs something to say during altercations. Something that can be understood.

Move.

Stop.

Leave me alone.

Go away.

Nouns are not enough. He needs to be armed with language that can convey how he feels.

“Stop” was picked up after one session. He loves the word now and uses it frequently. I had to tell my husband to respect that. Tickling him and he asks you to stop? You better stop. Obviously things like diaper changes and brushing teeth still have to be done, but at least now he knows what to say. ABA is working on “move” now. I imagine that one will be mastered soon as well.

 

I don’t know if this has given him a new sense of self-confidence or if it’s just a natural development, but I’m seeing more complex requests now. On our last trip to Costco he said “turn around!” I almost didn’t catch it, as I’m so used to tuning out the constant barrage of nonsensical talk from both kids, but I did. It was the first time I’ve heard him use that phrase. I backed up the cart and tried to find what it was he was so interested in. He wasn’t very helpful in that regard, but I eventually I found a forklift that may have been the source of the request. I identified the new machine, as well as a pallet-mover, and we continued with our shopping.

It makes me think we’ve reached a new stage in his development- one in which he has greater control over his own life. Communication is key to autonomy and it is wonderful to see him gaining the ability to make himself understood.

 

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