We've always done a bit of fill in the blanks talking with Janey. It goes something like "I am crying because...." and hoping she'll fill in the reason, or maybe "The food I want is...." We've had mixed results over the years---generally, honestly, not that great results. But once in a while, it works. However, lately, for whatever reason, it suddenly seems to be working very well, and it feels like a little bit of a communication breakthrough.
Here's a recent conversation with Janey, with her words in italics. The background is that she wanted a shower just before I knew Tony was about to come home and give her a car ride, something she'd want even more.
"A little bit ago, Janey wanted to take a...shower. But Mama said...yes"
That's something we see a lot in the fill in the blank talking. Janey gives the answer she WISHES would have been the answer.
"Janey wishes that Mama had said yes. But really, Mama said...NO!"
My no responses are always told by her as being extremely loud and mean sounding!
"When Mama said no, that made Janey very....angry. Janey was so angry that she...hit Mama"
Another example there of the answer being what, I think, Janey WANTED to do!
"No, Janey didn't hit Mama, and Mama was very proud Janey remembered not to hit. Instead, Janey....(here I opened up my mouth very wide to give her a hint)...screamed....very, very...loudly!"
"And then Mama said if Janey could calm down a little, when Daddy got home in a minute, he would take Janey for a...car ride. That made Janey feel....happy. And Mama was happy because Janey was being such a good girl"
There she surprised me a bit. I was going for "Janey calmed down". I try not to use terms like "good girl" too much, but I guess I must, as that's what she said!
Today is a snow day. Tony is home as well as Janey. First thing in the morning, Janey was ready once again for a car ride. We did a little fill in the black talking after we told her no to that.
"Janey wanted to go for a car ride, but Daddy said...YES!"
Again, the answer she wished for!
"No, actually Daddy said no. He said no because outside there is lots of....snow"
We were surprised by that. We had mentioned the snow, but we weren't sure Janey had made the connection. It was so good to know she had, that she understood there was a reason for no car ride.
"Yes, there's lots of snow outside. And if we drive in the snow, the car might...go smasha-la-rasha!"
It's possible I've used the term "smasha-la-rasha"....
A third great round. Janey was at loose ends a bit ago, not happy at all.
"You know, Janey, today things seems a little different, and that can be scary. Things seem different today because there is no...school"
That was a great one. I hadn't been talking about how this was a snow day---I just wanted to see if she realized that it was a day that would usually be a school day and it wasn't. I've known for a while that Janey has a very good idea of what each day is supposed to bring, and she really doesn't like days off in the middle of the week, but this was the first time I've been able to kind of prove it to myself.
After we have a conversation like those above, I've noticed that Janey gets very, very happy. After that first conversation about the shower and car ride, Janey gave me a huge hug, and then that look, the look I love so much, the connected and contented look. It's a look I only get once in a while, a look that is hard to explain but that I think a lot of you out there know. It's the look of minds meeting, of a connection without barriers.
It's wonderful to hear what Janey has to say. And the fill in the blank method seems to work better than almost anything we've tried to really get to hear her own opinions. I think it's because her main speech problem has always been word retrieval. She knows so much, but getting it out is so hard for her, as is forming sentences. If we take away a lot of the variables and work, if we make it so all she has to retrieve is one word or phrase, not a whole sentence, it seems to free her up to say what she wants to say. And I love, love, LOVE knowing what she wants to say.