Search This Blog

Friday, June 1, 2012

"Thank you, Ms. Donna"

When I drop Janey off at school early a few days a week for early ABA with her fantastic ABA therapist, Mr. Ken, he works on having Janey say goodbye to me. She almost never does it spontaneously, but when prompted, she will say something. It's not always what we are looking for, though! Wednesday, instead of "Goodbye, Mama!", we got "Thank you, Ms. Donna!" Ms. Donna is Janey's PT, and Janey adores her, so I tried to not feel offended---it's a compliment, really! Today again, Janey said goodbye to me with "Goodbye, Ms. Donna!" but there was a big grin on her face. I got the feeling she might be kidding around with me.

However, this does illustrate what gets frustrating with Janey's speech. It's almost always scripted. When she uses the right script, it's great. But sometimes the lines that come to her head and out her mouth are not what she really wants to say. I see it a lot when she's upset. She'll ask for things she doesn't really want "I want cheese cutter! I want Kipper! I want snuggle on Mama's bed!", because those are familiar phrases to her, and in the midst of the emotion, I think it's all that she can retrieve. The very, very rare utterance that she is creating not from a script has a totally different sound to it. It's slower, in a different voice and is much more awkwardly said.

I think the way Janey can say so much with scripts sometimes disguises how little she really can talk meaningfully. We have never had what I'd call a conversation. It's vanishingly rare for her to answer a question. Her talk doesn't serve to do much of what language is designed to. It either asks for specific things or repeats things she has heard. An example is the other day after school, when I couldn't find her backpack. I asked her where it was, but knew I'd never, ever get an answer. She might have known, but that is not a question she could answer. Nor is such everyday things as "How was your day? What did you do at school? Who did you play with today? What book do you want to read? What do you want to wear? Do you like the kitties? Is it rainy today?" All everyday questions, but not ones Janey can answer, at least not with a huge amount of scripting and prompting.

As a result, any time I'm not with Janey is a bit of a black hole for me in terms of knowing what she has done and how she has been feeling. Her school is great at keeping me informed, but there is so much that happens in a day that just isn't the kind of thing that can be written down or reported to me. Even when I am actually with Janey, her real feelings are often a mystery to me. I can figure that crying means she is sad or angry or frustrated, that laughing means she is happy or excited or manic, but that's about as narrowed down as I can get it. Some day, I'd love to hear Janey tell me one of her dreams, or tell me something funny that happened at school, or tell me about a TV show or book she loved.

I'm very lucky Janey does talk at all. I need to keep that in mind, even when I am called Ms. Donna!

No comments: