Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘pragmatic

Say It Ain’t So

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Pudding learns language in a very different way to most kids.  I know this, and have known it for some time.  Yet it still continues to surprise me.  I still find it difficult and frustrating to tailor my language to her needs.  For the most part, I’m successful in getting her attention before I speak, and keeping my sentences short and clear.  But I’ve also been doing a lot of something else, and it is damaging to her communication.  I’ve been correcting her, over-correcting her, really.  Now I’m paying the price for it.

Pudding has an Asperger’s diagnosis, which might fool you into thinking that she doesn’t have language delays.  In fact, she has very significant pragmatic language delays, like many other kids on the spectrum.  One of the most instantly noticeable of these is her difficulty with pronouns.  Initially, she would substitute the pronoun with names for extra clarification.

Pudding wants Mummy to get Pudding a drink.

Then we began speech therapy.  She understands pronouns.  She knows that I mean Mummy when I say “I/me/mine” and Pudding when I say “you/your/yours” and Cubby or Daddy when I say “he/him/his”.  She understands we/our/them/their without a problem.  But when it comes to generating the correct pronoun herself, she struggles.

She went from using her name to using the word “you.”

You want Mummy to take you out.

I would correct her:

Say: I want you to take me out.

She would repeat back, always emphasizing the pronoun just as I had.  Then over time, she began to correct herself:

You want Mummy to take you out.  Say I want Mummy to take me out.

Now that “say” is stuck there.  Wrapped up in almost every utterance.  I hate the effort that she puts into correcting herself, only for it to be wrong.  I really hate that it is my fault for over-correcting her.

***

I turned to the experts in Pudding’s life.  First, her teacher who approaches things from a behavioral standpoint.  She recommends ignoring the incorrect request, and only responding to correct language. It is what they do in her Verbal Behavior classroom.  It works there.

But I can’t.

I can’t turn away any communicative intent.  I can’t ignore her language because it isn’t fluent, not when I know how hard she tries.

So I tried her speech therapist.  Her method was to find an alternative way for using “say”.  She suggested “try” or “tell me.”

While that suits my instincts better, I have a feeling that before long they’ll also be incorporated into Pudding’s speech.  I mentioned this to her therapist, who acknowledged it is a very real possibility.  Then when we went to leave, she said goodbye, but Pudding was outside focusing on a flower, and didn’t hear her.  Before I could stop myself, I called to her: “Say goodbye.”

These language habits are tough once they are instilled, for both of us.  I’m going to do what I should have done in the first place- let Pudding be.  Let her learn our language immersion style, my teaching methods are clearly useless.  That is something I don’t mind saying.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

March 22, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Cubbyhole

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Now, some of you may have noticed that there is another little person in my life who doesn’t get as much of a mention as his big sister. There is a Cubby-sized hole in this blog. It isn’t right. He deserves his own write-up.

I’ve been putting off talking about him, because I don’t exactly know what to say. Every time I write a post on WordPress, there is a place for me to ‘tag’ my posts and this puts them in a category. I don’t know how I’d tag my boy, and I don’t know what category I’d put him in. I used to think Aspergers was a binary thing, you have it or you don’t, but Cubby is pint-sized proof that this isn’t the case.

When Pudding was diagnosed, Cubby was only five months old. At the time I was angry with myself (and the world) that I’d missed things in Pudding that were suddenly so obvious. I was determined not to miss anything second time around. But Cubby, like his big sister, hit all the developmental milestones. Just like her, he was born liking fans and lights, and tactile sensory-seeking. Just like her, he developed separation anxiety at a very early age, and seemed over-attached to me. And just like her, when I mentioned these things to the doctors, they told me this was normal.

Even Dr. P, Pudding’s excellent, perceptive, developmental pediatrician has yet to see the signs in him, but referred us to a sibling study to monitor his development.

We’ve had two sessions of the sibling study at the Kennedy Kreiger Institute. Each one is a grueling seven hour assessment, and both times we’ve had to split the session over two visits. The first evaluation found him to be developmentally on target, but with joint attention problems. Joint attention is where a caregiver shows something to the child, and he or she acknowledges this and responds accordingly. Joint attention deficits are considered to be the first indicator of autism. Cubby had some joint attention, but hadn’t mastered it. We went to work on this, and by the time his second evaluation had taken place, he had age appropriate joint attention.

We aren’t allowed to breathe a sigh of relief though, because this time around they found problems with his social communication, something that had been one of his strengths at the first visit. At age 16 months he knows and uses many words, he is developmentally ahead, even putting words together, but there is something about his use of words that is slightly off, or atypical, to use the word which frequently describes our children.  I’m working on his pragmatic skills, and teaching him some basic sign language, which enables both sides of the brain to be engaged in communication.  Perhaps we can get him back on track with this too.  Or maybe there will inevitably be another sign emerge, and then another.

Only time will tell.

For the moment, he makes great eye contact, shares his interests and imitates in play. Our local Early Intervention services will only provide therapy if he has a significant developmental delay, or has a formal diagnosis. Saying that I think he could be spectrummy just isn’t going to do it!

The A-word isn’t so scary the second time around, but that doesn’t stop me worrying about my baby boy. This time we know what challenges may be ahead, and how hard it is going to be to meet them, with our increasingly limited resources.

In January we’ve got our appointments for his assessments, perhaps by then things will be more evident. Until then, he just doesn’t fit into a cubbyhole, he can’t be categorized. He just is who he is, and we love him for it.