Language Comes to Life
edited: Sunday, January 21, 2007
By Jill Parker
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Sunday, January 21, 2007
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An autistic child learns language.
To show an example of my son's progress in language, I begin this article with a repost from a November 10, 2005 blog, when we had recently started a behavioral therapy program at home and in other places, with my son, in addition to school. Other therapists worked with him at the table, but as you can see from this repost, I used various settings:
...We're in the tub, all covered with bubbles. I want him to say yes. I lift my foot. Does mama have a foot, I ask. Silence. Do this, I say. Say, yes. "Yes." Does mama have a foot. Do this. Say yes. Does mama have a nose, hair, does the boy have a foot, does he have hair. Do this. Yes. Yes. Yes.
He's sitting on the couch watching his tractor video. Does he have hair. Say yes. "Yes," he says. Does he have hands. "Tractor."
Put your coat on, I say. I get, "We're turning, turning, turning, we're turning all around. We're turning, turning, turning, we're turning all around." I like the song, too. I stop to sing it. I ask him if he did it at preschool. I get the backfire sound from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I must be in the wrong key. Say, No sing, mama. Backfire. Backfire.
He usually used to say, "Dump truck," in his sleep, but last night he said: "You see funny noise," to himself when he was coughing.
Every church in town, even if it looks like it could be a warehouse, is labeled: Church Bell, from a piece of a favorite puzzle he does with one of his therapists. He pays attention to the puzzle because each piece put in correctly makes a sound. She keeps the helicopter and train pieces out for last, so he'll do the other pieces. I don't know how he picks the churches out while we are driving, he must see an angel waving above the building telling him, This is a church. I try to vary it a little: white church, brown church. House. House. Houses, I say. Howies is what I get.
Stand up. Sit down. Lie down. Please move.
I am training, and being trained...
Now it's December, 2006. A year ago, I remember thinking to myself: Self, you know that this boy will be able to speak, you know that he will learn, but how can we get him to put whole sentences in order? I had little picture cards of nouns and verbs, and put them in little rows on a velcro notebook, but they still meant little to my son. We had to train him, even, to look at pictures and books. The answer, of course, to my self-questioning, was: yes, my son would make great progress, but it would be because I was not alone in working with him. Hours of patient playing, language drills, and other interactions have made the difference.
I feel like my biggest role in his life, sometimes, is to be a wedge in the door, to keep his attention slightly engaged, whether by touch or sight or sound. I always keep the dialogue open.
Here is an example of a conversation we had recently: "Mom. I want a dog. Is name is Susan. Is red." (Some giggling is heard in the background.) "Mom. No laughing, Mom." I ask, "Is the red dog going to be like Clifford on TV." "No!!! NO!" He explodes. "Not Clifford. Just red." There are so many amazing things about this conversation, to me. Verbs are in the correct place, although subjects are not always. He protested appropriately. This was a first, for him to be openly offended when I laughed.
Red dog or not, I'm glad that my son is learning to express himself. One of my son's therapists calls him, "The Narrator" now, because he has generalized the habit of always talking about everything that he does. He'll say: "I check in first. Bilal and Matthew stand by the penguins," when it's his day to check in at speech class first.
One advantage that my son has in his favor (when it comes to learning language, especially), is that his sensory distortions are apparently not as pronounced as in some autistic children. He passed an audiology examination recently with flying colors. Just as every person experiences life differently, each child diagnosed with autism experiences the condition uniquely. Living with him has taught me so much.