Janey's talking is one of the trickiest things to understand about her. I feel very, very lucky that she does talk a little, especially because it seemed at a point that her talking would leave completely during the worst part of her regression around when she turned 3. It never felt completely, but it's very hard to explain, especially to anyone outside our immediate family. I have figured out she talks less even at school than home, as they are often very excited to tell me about something she had said that I've heard a lot at home. She has a good speech therapist, but I am not sure anyone really knows what to do with her. Until about 5 months ago, her speech she did have was quite clear, but now it's not---it's often hard to understand. The most common phrases from her follow the pattern "I want...."---I want a baba, I want cheese, I want Kipper, I want light on (which usually means light off). The only other type of sentence we hear consistantly is something like "Mama is getting me a baba", kind of a variation of the simple want, saying what she hopes will be happening soon. She will sometimes give single word answers to our questions if she is being rewarded, like with M&Ms---we point to a picture and she says what it is. Sometimes she surprises us a good deal with knowing pictures we would not guess she knows. But she often guesses within a category---for example, if we show her a triangle, she will say "Circle" or if we show her a cat, she will say "dog". It makes me think she has trouble retrieving the exact word she wants---she knows it's a shape, or an animal, but not which one. It's the same with numbers and letters---she seems to know what is a letter, but will guess at the letter or the number. I think she knows the symbols, as she usually guesses a letter when it's a letter and a number when it's a number. If we give her the answer, then she guesses that for the next card always---if we tell her it's an A, the next letter will get called an A.
And then there is the rare fluent sounding talk, which is always self-talk. She will do this when looking at a book, or sometimes when walking around in circles in the yard or something. This kind of talk is in low tones, and hard to hear. It's usually a mixture of song parts, nursery rhymes, phrases she's heard, etc. It doesn't make any sense, but it has much more of the sound of regular talking than any of her other talk. I love hearing it, although it's not really useful---it's like she's playing back clips of things she's heard. Tonight it was lots of nursery rhymes, as I've read her a lot lately. If I listen too hard to her when she's talking like that, or ask her any questions, she usually stops talking.
Once in a while, she will do more simple echolalia, where she just repeats a phrase she's heard someplace. This is quite often something she probably heard with lots of emotion attached. One of the most upsetting ones is "f***ing b***h" I really don't think she heard this at home, although I certainly can't rule it out completely. I thought I was hearing wrong the first time I heard it, but I've heard it quite clearly several times since then. I hate ever telling her not to say something, but I do say "that's not a nice thing to say---those are words that hurt people" when she says that. I'm sure she doesn't really follow that and could care less, but I have to say it!
So it's hard to answer people sometimes when they ask if she is verbal. Yes, she's verbal in that she CAN talk. But in terms of answering questions (except under reward sessions) or telling us about anything that has happened to her, or understanding more than a very few things we say to her, she's not really verbal. Outside the house, when someone says "Hi" to her, or asks her name, or how old she is, they will NEVER get any answer. At home, actually, usually not either, although she can say what her name is. Every day at school, lots and lots of people say "Hi, Janey!" as she walks in, and she never answers. I'm never sure if should answer for her or not. I've started just smiling and not answering.
If I could figure out how her mind works in terms of retrieving words, and could teach her to just answer a few social questions, I think it would help her a lot, but I have no idea how to do this, and I don't think anyone else does, either.