Thursday, August 25, 2016

Communication with B

B-man is quite verbal.  It's actually kinda hard to get him to be quiet.  Sometimes he's chattering away and he's not talking to anyone in particular.

This was not always the case.  At one time I told our doctor "He has 2 words - Daddy for Ryan and Dada for me." Only to be told, that's only one word.  Communicating with B then was difficult.  I never knew for sure what he wanted.  If we were in the car and he finished his bottle or a sippy cup and wanted more, he threw the cup at the back of my head.  I used to carry a huge backpack full of things he might want, plus toys for other kids to play with so they wouldn't try to play with his special toys. I was constantly trying to guess what he might want or need. It was exhausting.

The summer he turned 3 he had an explosion of language.  It was like a switch flipped.  He was talking a lot more all of a sudden.  But, as I listened, I realized he wasn't saying much.  He was mainly repeating what he's heard us say, or lines from a movie, or parts of a YouTube video.

This is still B's main communication method.  He reuses things he's heard. Lately, most of his lines are from YouTube videos.  It's called echolalia.  I'm not real thrilled with Google's definition of what it is but here it is...

As you can see in the definition, it's common for kids learning to talk.  And that's the key. B has mastered the skill of talking.  However, he's still struggling with the art of communication. 

He can't always tell you why something is bothering him.  He can't give us details of his day.  Although, I will say this has gotten better but there are still holes.  

But what he can do is use lines from YouTube videos and movies and from us to try to express himself.  This is sometimes called scripting.  Many autistic people have scripts that they repeat over and over.  B-man doesn't do this.  So, it makes it difficult to tell if he's repeating something he's heard or not.

When we went to meet his teachers last week, he had his Tsum-Tsums with him.  One of the teachers asked what they were, she had never seen them.  He launched into a Tsum-Tsum commercial.  He even changes the tone of his voice to match the tone of the commercial. There was no mistaking that he was repeating a commercial.  It was so cute.

On the first day of school, he told me "I'm nervous and excited all at once."  I was blown away.  He had never expressed himself like that before.  He was right on target.  He had watched some videos on YouTube kids about emotions.  And he applied what he learned to himself.  I almost cried.  I was able to tell him that those emotions were right on target, that's how most people feel on the first day of school.

I try to remember, and I try to remind others, that just because B is talking, doesn't mean he's communicating. For me this means, that I still have to ask the adults at school to fill in the holes of his day.  It means that they need to call me to ask why I think he reacted a certain way in a certain situation.  It sometimes means waiting a while to try to process things with him.  Sometimes he can tell me later about a situation that he couldn't express in the moment.  

Whatever it means, we are willing to do it. We want to know what he's thinking and feeling, even if he's recycling the words from a video.  I want to know what's going on in that awesome little mind of his.  I suspect I'd get more than I bargained for.  

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