Tell it to Me, Baby
Wonderboy has speech therapy today. It’s been a while (we’ve been on a break since Rilla was born in April) and I’m eager to hear what his therapist has to say. He’s made big strides in both speech and sign since the last time she saw him. Between this and his newfound ability to get up, he’s had quite an amazing couple of months.
Every now and then, though, I step back from my up-close-and-elated view of his accomplishments and recognize that as far as he has come, he still has a long way to go. When I wrote that post about the speech banana last week, I ended the first draft with “The speech banana? It doesn’t scare me” and later amended that to “The speech banana? We’ll get there one way or the other.” Even the revised version was nagging at me as not being quite what I meant, and I realized that it’s because of the difference between speech and comprehension, between expressive and receptive language skills.
In that post, in those sentences, I was talking about receptive language, what he hears, sees, and understands. His receptive language skills are excellent, given the degree of his hearing loss. He understands a great deal of what we say. Sort of. Yesterday I was unloading the dishwasher and I took out a pot.
“Pot!” I said, showing him.
“Ah!” he agreed—signing “hot.”
Um. Not quite, but I like that he was repeating what he thought he’d heard. He can’t hear the P, see, and I hadn’t signed along with my speech that time. He really needs the visual cues for comprehension.
Despite hitches like this, he really is doing beautifully as far as receptive language goes, gaining comprehension at a lightning rate. And that’s what I was thinking of when I said the speech banana, and where his range of hearing falls on the chart, doesn’t scare me. He may not hear all the sounds, even with hearing aids, but if he’s understanding as much as he is at age two, I really believe he’ll have total comprehension when he’s older.
His expressive language ability, however: that’s another ball of wax. Here again, I’m not worried about his being eventually able to express his thoughts in one way or another. He is already using a combination of sign and speech to communicate, and thanks to the gorgeous marvel that is ASL, he can tell me most of what a two-year-old wants to say. And then with verbal speech, he seems to be smitten. He loves to talk, spends much of the day practicing words. Without his signs to cue me, I probably wouldn’t be able to translate them: to know that “ah ah ee ah” is caterpillar and “eh-ah” is elephant.
“Watermelon,” I’ll say, signing it also.
“Ah ah eng!” he’ll shout triumphantly, believing that he is echoing me completely. His hand comes to his mouth, three fingers pointing up like a W, tapping his chin—”water”—and then he pokes the back of his hand with a finger, like tapping a melon. Watermelon. Ah-ah-eng. I gotcha.
So, yes, when it comes to his slow crawl toward verbal speech I am comfortable, but not complacent. I think we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us if he is going to manage some of these consonants that elude his ears. We play babbling games; I press his lips together and say “buh buh buh,” trying to help him catch the B. He laughs, touches my mouth, says, “Uh uh uh.” So far, that B is nowhere on his radar.
But oh how he loves to experiment with talking! His joy is infectious; you can’t help but grin.
“Amp Ha ain ow-hie!” he tells me, his flying fingers clueing me in to his meaning. Grandpa train outside. Yes, buddy, you and Grandpa saw a train on your walk, didn’t you? Two months ago. That ain made a big impression on this little boy.
Big impression on my heart, too.
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