Posts tagged ‘functional language’

A way with words

There was a time when we thought C might never make noise or speak. When he was a newborn, I remember telling my mother that I would never complain about his crying if he could just actually do it. At the time, he was on a ventilator, and we couldn’t hear his “voice.”  I wasn’t convinced yet that C would actually live, so suddenly a screaming baby seemed like a wonderful thing.

Of course, C did live, and once he had the tube out of his throat he made his voice known. But it was years later when we wondered if he’d ever really speak. I prayed to hear his voice, only this time in a different form: words. I wanted to hear words. Shortly before his second birthday, he said, “MAH” (translation: “MORE”), and celebration followed.

It was a long and painful journey from “MAH” to words and then to sentences and then to spontaneous speech. C was about six years old before the echolalia became unnoticeable to all but those of us closest to him. Then people commented on what an interesting vocabulary he had when he said old fashioned things like, “Good grief” (Charlie Brown); or quirky things like, “Save money, live better” (Walmart slogan).

All these years later, we have a kid who rarely closes his mouth. His constant stream of words, even while asleep, changed the joy I felt when he first spoke them into craving any moment of peace and quiet I could find.

Yet missing from C’s language was the vocabulary of compassion. I didn’t realize how much it was missing until I realized he all of a sudden seemed to acquire it. Last week, when I suggested to him that perhaps it was vital to have all the facts about something important before relaying it to us as truth, he said, “You’re right Mom. Thanks for telling me that as I wouldn’t have known how it impacted you.”

Ho. Ly. Cow. A. Bunga. I about fell out of my chair. I have never heard words like that from C. Ever. And I’m hearing things like that more and more when I talk with him. I find myself believing there might be change when he returns home in a quick six weeks. Could it be real? Only time will tell, of course, and I admit to being skittish about getting my hopes up too much. Still, there is a glimmer there of something we have never heard in his words, and hopefully his actions will follow.

It is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

February 4, 2019 at 9:06 pm Leave a comment

Let’s give him something to talk about

     I have had to force myself to limit the Pokemon conversation that is a constant in our lives these days. I let C tell me about two Pokemon, or talk for five minutes, or ask three questions. But when we’re done, he inevitably asks, “What should we talk about now, Mom?”

     I admit to being at a complete and utter loss at how to answer this question, and it leaves me pondering just what it is I discuss with other people all day and how those conversational topics are set. Having to “pick” a topic of conversation reminds me of an awkward first date, because you know if it’s that hard to find something to talk about, the relationship will never work. Since this question mostly comes up in the car after all other topics are exhausted, I generally say something about just enjoying the ride and looking out the window. This seems like a cop-out to me, but I’m baffled as to what to say. I’m so used to conversation just flowing that being forced to think about how it does so renders me mostly mute.

     I’ve tried the conversation starters, and they work for a moment or two. Once C even surprised Husband and me by suggesting we share one thing we liked about our day over dinner. God love this child – he is trying as hard as is humanly possible. It’s not that C is trying to hide anything or doesn’t want to talk, but when I ask him what he did in Spanish class today, the answer is brief and full of the basics. He doesn’t talk about the other kids unless something major has happened, and he often misses the daily dramas that occur within the classroom around him. I pull as much information out of him as I can, but once those conversations die out, C somehow works Pokemon (or Mario, or plumbing, or trains, or whatever is his current fascination) back into the discussion, and I tend to fantasize about escaping to Hawaii.

     I’ve realized that despite being extremely verbal and talkative, C has very little “functional language.” A speech therapist told us this once, and I admit to not completely understanding her message. “C has much to talk about, but much of it has nothing to do with people, emotions, social interaction, or function.” Frankly, I think we were so happy he was talking at all after years of silence (verbal anyway…the days of screeching “Pterodactyl Boy” aren’t erased from my memory), we perhaps missed the fact that his language was missing some key components.

     Yet now, when I talk with some of the neighborhood kids, I realize how effortless conversation actually is for typical kids, and I revel in those moments of crystal clear communication. I’m amazed not only at what they observe (“Dog isn’t as excited to see me this time as he was last time, Mrs. P,” says the three-year old neighbor boy, while I stand there, mouth gaping open at his awareness and ability to share that information with me). Then C will say something to another parent about knowing what Wi-Fi system they have and whether their parental controls are set on the Wii and both of us have to chuckle.

     Fortunately, C is extremely charming. Dimpled and smiling, he loves to talk. He’s friendly, engaging, and often quite funny. He does have friends – actually, if he knows your name, he considers you a friend – although close friends are few and far between. At this age, where kids are starting to have relationships based on more than one shared interest, C is left standing conspicuously – and often painfully – alone. I hang on to the fact that his so lovable; adults love him, and my hope is that when his current peers become adults, they will love him too.

May 25, 2011 at 9:10 am 13 comments


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