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Language Development: A Tale of Five Kiddies

Once upon a time, you had a mommy
who was the best mommy
in the universe. 

The End. When the girls come to me and are so chatty, sometimes, I look at them like they are the great enigma. After having three boys with autism, having NT(Neuro-typical) girls seems strange. There are so many behaviors, words, phrases and interactions that I have never experienced before, that sometimes, I just have to stop, look and take it all in. This is what it's supposed to be like. 

#1 was nonverbal until two and a half. He was able to repeat words, but as far as asking for things, he would stand in the kitchen and scream. He wouldn't point, he wouldn't indicate anything, he would just scream. We then had to play the guessing game. I felt like I was a contestant on a game show trying to give the prize winning answer as the clock ticked down. I had to wave every single box of cereal, crackers, and cookies, in front of him and pray for a response. And when that failed, I had to open the refrigerator and do the same dance again. Juice? milk? beer? I'll give you anything, you name it, hash brownies? Just please, stop screaming. My neighbors must have thought I was abusing him .

Eventually, with the help of PECS and some amazing therapists, he made progress. The OT worked on pointing, and it took a very long time before he could point to anything. Slowly, after months and months of language modeling,  he began to say the word of the item he wanted. The first time he said "cracker" I nearly fell off my chair. Yea buddy, you can have the box. After months of success, we had to shift gears and get out of the "I'll-give-you-anything-you-asked-for-because-you-used-your-words." It  worked as an initial incentive, but we had to teach him, that although mommy is spectacular, the universe isn't, and we have to prepare him for disappointment. If I say "no" more than I say "yes", you will realize how special "yes" really is.

#2, the Aspy, said his first word at 18 months, "book", and that child has not stopped talking since. I swear he has dreams about talking at people. His big dream is reading Wikipedia on a stage to the world. Hear my words people.

#3 was also non-verbal until two-and-a-half. He eventually could say "car" and "train" but it seemed like a repeat performance of #1, except, he could point. The problem was, his aim wasn't always accurate. What could you possibly want that is on top of the fridge? I took down everything and showed you and you are still screaming. Do you mean the cabinet next to the fridge? Just shoot me. And to make things even better, he'd throw things in frustration and try to hit. So not only was I trying to model language, and figure out what he wanted, but I had to dodge punches and flying objects as well.

Although he has made great leaps and bounds, he is still selectively verbal. Which means, every now and then, he needs a repeat performance of "what the hell do you want?"

With all three boys, I was constantly modeling language, "Do you want the crackers?", "Yes mom, I want the crackers. Thank you. You're the best mom in the universe. You're very welcome." Most of my days, I felt like I was talking to myself and really, I was. I was modeling full conversation exchanges with myself in hope that they would pick up something, anything. And I was especially careful to never curse in front of them because I knew my luck, the one word they would hear and repeat would be a naughty one.

 The girls were my first experience with reciprocal language with toddlers. I wasn't used to being asked questions that didn't involve asking for food. They wanted to be around me because they wanted to talk to me and that was just so strange. They wanted to play with me and wanted me to read to them. Say what? The two of them often have long, drawn out conversations with each other. Originally it was in their own language but it evolved into English.  And they play with each other and have lots of dialogue between their stuffed animals. The boys never did that.

 Currently they have 27 word sentences without breathing in between. "Hey mom, are you peeing or pooping? I saw a butterfly and she had pretty wings that were yellow, blue with black spots and she was pollinating all the flowers and flying so pretty like this, lalalalala and then she landed on the bench, and then I tried to get her to land on my finger, but she flew away. Are you done yet? Make sure you wash your hands."  I think she just said more words than #1 and #3 did in their first 3 years, combined. 

Not only that, they are aware of facial expressions. "Mom, are you happy? you're not smiling? Mom, show me your happy face."

And now, all the language I have been modeling is coming back to me through them. The first time I heard the twins say, "Thanks mom, you're the best mom in the universe,"I realized someone was listening all along.

Well, thank you. I'll come again. 


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