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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Understanding Speech

One of the somewhat quiet bits of progress Janey has made in the last year or so is her big increase in understanding what we say. Previously, she probably talked more than she understood, had better expressive language than receptive, which is a rare setup I think mostly seen in autistic kids who are verbal but not really usefully verbal---kids like Janey that repeat a lot and use a lot of delayed echolalia. But lately, she is understanding much more, which can be seen by how she follows directions (when she wants to). For example, this morning she wanted to watch a certain episode of The Backyardigans. She brought me the Wii remote (as we watch it on Netflix through the Wii). That remote had dead batteries, and so I said "Bring me the other remote---this one isn't working". I say things like that often not expecting any response. It's part of just keeping on talking, giving her as much speech to hear as I can. But today, she immediately went over and found the other remote and brought it to me. I was very happy.

We have to be careful with this increased understanding at times. She listens to everything we say, and can get upset by things she hears and perhaps only half understands. If we mention dogs, or loud noises or other things that scare her, not in any context of something scary, she might hear the word and get upset. Or if we casually discuss ideas for dinner, and something like "Burger King" comes up, she is putting on her shoes and ready to head out for a chicken nugget treat. It's wonderful she understands like that, but hard too, in that she partially understands often, and I can't imagine what a confusing world that must create. My analogy is when Tony's parents were alive, and spoke in Italian dialect. I got so I could understand about half of it, so I could kind of follow a conversation, but not really. It felt very scary and lonely at times---better than not understanding at all, but in some ways not, because I could understand enough sometimes to misunderstand.

But it's progress. It's wonderful to be able to ask Janey to do little things like bring me the phone or go see Daddy and have her actually do what I say. It's a very nice step forward.

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