Exploding Language Development!

Try these awesome sentences on for size:

"Make pizza go away!" (In response to being asked if he was "all done?")

"Mommy saw Buzz! Mommy saw Remy!" (Looking at pictures I'd taken.)

"Want to watch TV-DVD!"

"I got it"/ "I catch it" (these verbs gets a little tricky to differentiate between, they're interchangeable).

"Mommy clean hands!"

"I love penguins." (He says that about a lot of things, penguins being a memorable instance from this afternoon.)

"Where's the water?" ("Where is X" and "You found X!" being oft repeated phrases around here. This clearly started as echolalia and is now just a phrase he uses when he's looking for something.)

I'm not very good at remembering to write these burgeoning sentences down, which is a shame and obviously this post is (in part) an attempt to rectify the situation.

Remy's language delay has thrown me for a loop (being that I'm extraordinarily verbal). I try, goodness gracious how I try, to meet him where he is, to talk in such a way that I am both meeting him where he is and challenging him to grow. It's difficult, but overall, I think I manage pretty damn well these days. I've had a lot of practice, being with him every day. Remy makes it abundantly clear if I'm talking "too prettified."

A large percentage of his language is still echolalia at this moment in time. Less so than before, it seems, or maybe he's gaining a little more finesse in how he uses this repeated speech. He's having what I call "a language explosion" and it makes me and his dad (and all Remy's grandparents) very excited. And if the tone of his voice is any indication, it makes Remy excited, too! (He and I share a tendency towards speaking -- and writing in exclamation marks. :-D)

I've believed for awhile that he's just taking longer at the echolalia stage than typical kids, which is seemingly the norm for some kids on the autism spectrum (where Remy is).

Think about it: we all learn language through repeating what we have heard. Typical children hear the words spoken to them/ around them and quickly move from simple repetition (echolalia) to using the words in unique context. (I believe our speech therapist called this "unique utterance.") Children with speech delay (and especially children on the spectrum with speech delay) might stay in the echolalia phase longer, but at least in my experience (with Remy), he is at this point clearly understanding what he is repeating. (There's just a lag in being able to create new context/ new ways of using the same words.) This is different from echo-babbling, which he also did/ still does. I can't always tell. But it is getting clearer. For example:

If you ask Remy if he would like a bagel, he still usually says, "Bagel!" excitedly instead of saying, "Yes, I would [like a bagel]." Sometimes we can coax him to say "yes, bagel" but it isn't spontaneous. ("NO!!!" on the other hand, is a word he uses spontaneously and often! Though sometimes when asking a direct question, the absence of an answer is also a negative response. "Do you want a bagel?" [silence meaning no].)

It's clear he knows what "bagel" means, though because if you handed him a grilled cheese sandwich instead, he'd be mighty unhappy. Unless he wanted a grilled cheese, in which case he'd joyous shout, "Grilled cheese!!!" And he also uses the word "bagel" spontaneously, making this a silly example

Language acquisition is somewhat unconscious for most of us. That's not the case in our house anymore. The simple three and four word sentences I listed at the beginning of the post have all made my heart soar with their beauty (I actually teared up when Mike told me Remy had said "Make pizza go away!" That's a big sentence leap and a huge cause for celebration).

Where my son is in his language development is sometimes (OK, often) challenging, but it is an amazing gift for me as a mom (and as a poet) to be able to listen to him as he learns at his own pace. Helping him navigate the confusing world of language is one of my favorite activities.