Monday, January 20, 2014

If I Could Go Back and Do It Again... Language

Beth doesn't know how to hold a conversation.

I know that may sound strange to some, so let me explain.

Her main vocabulary consists of:
"Now what?" (If you're doing something when she walks in.)
"I knew it." (If you get something to eat or drink or clean up a spill...)
"I don't know." (Her answer to almost. every. question.)

She's gotten to the point where she states the obvious. If I get up to do dishes, she will ask, "Are you gonna do dishes?" If I'm putting on makeup, "Oh yea. Doin' your makeup."

I've noticed recently she doesn't know how to have a real, deep down, conversation. She will ask questions: "Are we going to church tonight?" "Can we go shopping today?"

And we ask her questions: "How was work tonight?" What did you do with the kids today?" And those are usually met with two or three word sentences.

Now, she is getting better and I think that's what caught my attention. She is trying to use more words and engage in conversation. I have to read her lips when she speaks or I can't understand her. And I'm always asking her to repeat it. Sometimes I give excuses like the dishwasher is running or I couldn't hear her over the radio. The other day she even told me, "I think your hearing is bad." I didn't know if I should tell her the truth, or be excited about the sentence she just said!"

And all this has me realizing that we never taught her how to have a conversation. I mean, our other girls just learned it by watching and doing I guess, but Beth just, for whatever reason hasn't learned that skill. I automatically think back to when she was growing up and try to pinpoint the moment we missed. Or the time in her life that we should have been doing it. At 7 or 8 years old? Or would she have needed to be older? And how should we have done it? Have mock conversations with her, trying to think of different scenerios? While we were out, we'd show her how to order from a menu, and then be patient as she said it herself; we'd look at her so the waitress would look at her instead of us, things like that. But basic, everyday conversation? We missed it completely.

She took speech and language classes all through school, were they inadequate? Or was it over her head? Is 'having a conversation' something they even teach in OT? Why didn't I think of this during all those IEP meetings?

And language is SO important in life! As you well know. Speech can be everything. We hope and pray our children learn the words and learn to say them. But if they don't know how to use those words in conversation, what good are they?

I'm not sure what the answer is. Not sure what we should have done differently. But if I could go back and do it again, I'd definitely make that a priority in her life.


Anna Theurer said...

I have no advice to give you, but I do imagine many parents are nodding their head "yes" to your post. I don't know how you teach conversation either.

My daughter is still predominantly nonverbal and diagnosed with apraxia so I am still wondering if she will ever get beyond single words! My Aunt Peggy, was a hoot. She could tell you what she did that day, but she couldn't tell you how she'd feel. "What did you do at work" she could answer, but "did you have a good day" would just be met with "me fine". She was also very difficult to understand. The thing is, she was a persistent woman. She would repeat. Then repeat it again. Then try to tell you a different way. I think that she finally figured out that not everyone could understand her. Those who were around her all the time could mostly understand her. Me, who only saw her on holidays could only make out every 3rd word--I suppose my hearing is bad too!

Krista said...

Disclaimer: my daughter is 4. She has few words compared to typical four year olds but that being said, one of our goals last year in preschool and speech was that when asked a question she would respond. It was something that up until year and a half ago she would never do. So I made it a goal because for better or worse, people judge a person on their ability to speak and articulate their thoughts. Perhaps it was wrong to set a goal on the defensive but so has worked. She loves to have conversations...again, I have no idea what she is saying half the time but if I ask her about her day, she will tell me all about it. And 90% of the time, if someone asks her a question, like, "what did you have for supper" she will give you an answer. I always appreciate your honesty and it is so encouraging for me to read your blog to know what we might expect in the future. Thank you for writing.

Kristin said...

So interesting. It's amazing what we take for granted that our other kids just learn because they exist ;) The other day I realized I never read to Max. Because he is non-verbal, doesn't point, and likes to eat paper and cardboard, so I just haven't. I also don't sing the abc song or do just those basic things I did with his sister. Since there's not much feedback on his part, I just forget that he still needs those things!