When your vocabulary is pretty limited, as Janey's is, words and phrases have to work overtime. They have many, many meanings. This is something it's taken me quite a while to get a handle on, especially with Janey's very most used phrase, "snuggle on Mama's bed!" You'd think that was a pretty straightforward thing to say, that it meant, well, "I want to snuggle with you on your bed, Mama". However, it rarely means just that. Let's run through about 5 of the most popular actual meanings!
1. "I want you to stop doing what you are doing" This one is most often used when I'm on the computer, which Janey hates. She'll come over, issue the famous phrase, and that means I'm supposed to get up immediately. If I do, and I go to my bed to snuggle, she usually ignores me there and goes back to whatever she was doing. But if I then try to sneak back on the computer, she notices right away and comes over and repeats the phrase, with a lot more vigor and anger.
2. "I want you to leave me alone" This meaning is one I've just recently figured out. It comes up when we are ALREADY snuggling on Mama's bed, or elsewhere. It means she wants me to go find my own place to snuggle, and leave her alone on the bed. It often comes up in the middle of the night, when she has decided she doesn't want to sleep in her own bed, but doesn't want us cluttering up OUR bed either. She wants room. She wants to be by herself. Figuring out this one was a breakthrough, as it always confused me very much that she constantly asked to snuggle when she was in the middle of snuggling!
3. "I am upset and I need comforting" This one is pretty easy to figure. If a video isn't what she wanted it to be, or if we are ignoring her urgent requests for bacon or ice cream or the like, she wants to reset the scene and to get some help calming down.
4. "I want to replay something very specific we did at a past time" Since we spend so much of our time snuggling on Mama's bed, and since I often try to sneak in a little learning during that time, I often read to Janey on the bed, or pull out a bag of toys (I keep a few near the bed) to spark conversation, or recite nursery rhymes, or sing to her, or whatever I can think of. There's a big variety. If one of those activities was something Janey really liked, she will ask to snuggle in order to get me to do that activity again. The problem is that she expects me to know what one she is thinking of, and doesn't like it at all when I don't. Sometimes she's give me a few cues, usually by picking up a toy or handing me the book, but other times, she just starts screaming because I have no clue what I am supposed to do.
5. "I don't know what to say, so I'll just throw out a phrase I DO know how to say" I think this is a very common use of the snuggle phrase. It's one of the few phrases Janey says with ease, and when she wants to communicate something but has no idea how, or when she just wants to connect, she'll toss out a snuggle request. It's familiar, it's easy, and it usually gets SOME kind of response.
I wish there was a way to get Janey to talk with more variety---I wish it with all my heart. It must be so extremely frustrating to have to rely on so few phrases to say so much. I don't know how to help her with this effectively. I often say back to her what I think she REALLY means, trying to give her the words---"Oh, you want to be ALONE on the bed right now!" or "You are upset and need some attention!" but this doesn't seem to lead to her using those phrases herself, although she will look happy I'm getting it. I know I am very fortunate that Janey talks at all. Many kids at her level of functioning don't, and I never take her talking for granted. I love to hear whatever she has to say, but I wish for her that she could better say what she means, or even that we dense adults could better understand her meaning.