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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Talking like Charlie Brown's parents

Lately Janey has gotten very into watching Curious George. I've been unsure why---it's not the kind of show she usually likes. There's no music or dancing, and it's a little plot-full, and seems to focus on math and science. But she loves it. It struck me today that what she likes might be how George talks. He talks like a real monkey would talk, with monkey sounds. It made me think of some other media Janey likes. She likes Teletubbies quite a bit, with their extremely simplified and badly pronounced style of talking, and she loves to watch me play Animal Crossing, in which the animals talk a speech-like nonsense. In all three, there is talking that doesn't have actual meaning for the most part. I think that might be relaxing for her to listen to. She can hear speech patterns, but she doesn't have to try to decipher what she is hearing. She HEARS speech just fine, as shown by her pitch-perfect echolalia, but how much she really understands is hard to say. She does have a high level of sensitivity to emotion in speech. If we say something even jokingly to each other in an angry or sad tone, she starts to cry. If we sound very happy, it usually make her happy, unless we sound TOO happy, then she gets a little overwhelmed. So maybe the Charlie Brown Parent type speech is easier to practice on---she can just work on hearing the tone and the rhythm, and not the meaning. Maybe that's part of why she likes music too, for the same reason some people don't like it when they can't understand lyrics. You don't have to completely understand lyrics to enjoy a song.

It makes me think if she could learn to read, she'd probably like it. That's like the opposite of Charlie Brown Parent talk---it's just the meaning of the words, without having to listen to the tone. Or maybe she would respond to a computer style voice reading, without any emotion or varying rhythm. It's all interesting to try to figure out, but I wish I could figure it out a little better. It's hard to see how frustrated she gets, or how scared when she thinks people are upset around her and she has no idea what they are upset about. It's hard sometimes hearing her echo speech, if I think about how that is an attempt to figure it out, to maybe save what she's heard for later processing, or for a clip to use in a situation she thinks it will work for. It make me think about how much we can take talking and understanding and conversation for granted. I see 2 and 3 year olds talking to their mothers in stores and can get all teary, because they get their points across so well, and sometimes when the mothers don't pay attention to them, or seem annoyed with having to answer questions, I just want to scream at them "Don't you know what a miracle you are seeing? Don't you realize how wonderful it is to have a child that can communicate like that?" And I know how wonderful it is that I have two children that can talk my ears off, and argue skillfully, and banter with the best of them. I'll never take it for granted, I hope.

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