Tuesday, 29 March 2011
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.