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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Language notes

Janey's language, when I can remove myself from feeling upset over it, can really be fascinating. I bet someone could do a whole study of how she talks for a graduate thesis, but that just might be a mother's perspective. It seems that interesting to me, though. It's very hard to describe to people. What I usually say to people who don't need the whole story is "She doesn't talk much". And that's true---she is often just silent. But she CAN talk, and does talk. A great deal of it is echolalia---repeating what she's just heard, but usually for meaning---for example, I'll say "Do you want some juice?" and she'll say "Do you want some juice!" to say yes. Some of it is random things she remembers, like lines from videos or parts of songs or nursery rhymes. It's her original speech that's the hardest to get a grasp of. Most of it is asking for things, and some of that is straightforward "I want cheese. I want water. I want Maisy on" But then there's the rare kind, when she observes something and talks about it. That's where I think there's word retrivial issues. On the way to school the other day we saw a big building under construction. Part of it had a temporary grid over it that hadn't even been there before. Janey noticed it, and said over and over "Cage! Cage!" It did look like a cage. It must have gotten her attention enough to want to share, which is unusual, but she didn't know how to really explain. If I hadn't happened to notice the building, I would have had no idea what she was talking about, and I bet that happens a lot---she says words that seem random, and I just think "What is the world is she talking about?" but she's really trying to tell me something. I think also if she gets the wrong word in her head to start with, it stays there. For example, she always calls knives "cutters". She talks about them a lot because she often wants me to cut her a piece of cheese, and she'll say "need a cutter". I always say knife back to her, but cutter seems to be implanted pretty hard in her head.

She is showing that she knows a lot more names than we had thought. She's finally saying "hi" to people, and often by name. Usually there's a little autistic twist---yesterday she said "Say good morning Ms. Thornton" to her teacher. But she knows the names. Or some of them---she thinks all the cats are named Tommy, and often she will call William Freddy, or use Freddy as shorthand for "brother", although she certainly knows William's name. Once in a while she still calls me "Daddy".

I'd say most of what she says is still single words. It's like she has to pay for each word, and so keeps things to a minimum---"Apple! Olivia! Snuggle! Outside!" and we know what she means. I probably should pretend not to, or insist on a full sentence, but for me, communication is the key. If she is communicating, I don't want to put up stop signs or act like it's not good enough for me. She is very easily frustrated. Times when I have said something like "Say 'I want an apple, please'" and she's tried a few times, she will break down entirely, cry, and I'll lose her for an hour. I guess there would be a school of thought that I should do that anyway, and after a while she'd learn, but in my mind, that's a precious hour lost and also sending her a message "I know what you are saying, but it's not good enough for me. It's not enough you're trying to communicate when it's so hard for you---you have to do it JUST RIGHT" I also always use what I did with the boys as a template. I "spoiled" them much more than Janey even---I know I did a lot for them that they could have done for themselves, but now they both are very good communicators and excellent students, and very independent. I would never have insisted they get their requests just right before helping them, and they COULD have done that, so why should I do that with Janey, when it's so hard for her? My goal is for her to feel loved, cared for and understood.

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