I commune with one of my speech delayed sons. He is nearly seven and a half, the big one. His autism complicates his speech delay. He is motivated to speak to me because, like most children, he wants something from me. I already know that he wants to find the case for his computer disc, to keep it safe, to stop it from being damaged. He has learned that ‘damage’ equates to ‘no more play.’ Currently he applies this care to his own belongings, but in time he will apply it to other people’s property, [translation = generalize] which is good for you too.
“What does it look like dear?” I wait for him to process my words and debate whether it’s really worth his effort. I wait, because if I repeat it too soon, the new words will bump into the old words and produce a jumble. I wait. If I rephrase, mistakenly thinking that he’s misunderstood, then the two phrases will tangle around each other, slot together in a knot to hide their meaning. I wait. Why should he speak when he can get want he wants by mimicking, gestures and mime?
I know what he wants. He knows that I know. Why don’t I just give it to him? That’s what a kindly parent should do. Because when I’m in my coffin, I want him to be able to communicate with other people, preferably using words. I wait as he processes and debates simultaneously, because although he may not appear to be multi tasking, he is. I tip the balance in my favour, and prompt him at what I hope is the right time, because I steal information from speech pathologists. “Use your good describing words.” I wait. Our eyes meet, he knows I mean business. I wait. I wait a bit more. I prompt, “is it big or little?” “It is like dis,” he holds up his hands to illustrate the shape and size of the sought after item. “Fat or thin?” A choice of options makes it easier for him. His vocabulary is good, [translation = age appropriate] he just has difficulty finding the words, as he has a faulty filing system. “Fin. It is fin, fin, fin.” How we love categories. “What colour is it?” “Er it has no colour, no colour, no colour.” Always in threes, a little echoing loop. “Is it see through?” “See fru? What it is, ‘see fru?’” That's not a new word, where can it be hiding in his lexicon? “Um, I can’t think of another word for transparent!” “Oh! Why din you say dat den, I know transparent! Indeed, why didn’t I? “No, no, no, it not ‘trans pah rnt’ it is really ‘trans PAR ENT!” His discriminatory auditory power, enunciation and diction flaw me. I predict a future career as an elocution teacher. “No English speaking! Try, try, try again! We are in da America you know!” As if I’m allowed to forget.