It's always exciting to come home after a few days away. I just returned from a conference in Indianapolis and found that Martin leaped forward in conversational ability. It's not just that he could take turns in conversation, something we've worked on with diligence. Now, it seems, Martin has a new capacity to have natural conversation. He doesn't offer the standard, expected replies. Rather, he can say the things that reveal to us his own experiences.
An example. Martin is always the first member of the family to finish dinner. His standard routine is to chew his last bite, pick up his plate, and ask if he can be excused. Sometimes, he forgets to ask and we remind him by saying, "Martin, did you ask the question?" Martin picks up on our prompt and asks to be excused. Tonight was different. He picked up his plate and walked away. I said, "Martin, did you ask the question?" "No," he mumbled, "my mouth is full."
This exchange might seem so basic. Indeed, most 3-year-olds could have it. But we had to work so hard to help Martin learn to ask if he could be excused, to respond to us if we asked him about that question, and to try this exchange with us night after night. Martin's ability to go in new directions signals that his brain is trying to master communication that goes beyond the automatic. It's so exciting for us.
Later this evening, Martin ran into a friend from his old school. "Ben," he shouted, "I haven't seen you in a long time." A few months ago, we would have prompted Martin to say hello after Ben had greeted him. We would have answered Ben's questions when Martin proved unable. Tonight, Martin not only took part in a natural conversation, but instigated it.
I should go to Indianapolis every week.