J’s earliest steps towards spoken word were echoes of things he heard around him, specifically that which he heard on cartoons. It was barely even recognizable until you paid attention and realized it was not the literal syllables he was mimicking but the cadence and expression lent to those syllables. He could capture the mood and melody of speech but not the precise verbal components.
This was the base we had to work with, and it was a good one. It proved he heard all around him and how very involved he was. He was showing us that he was, indeed, always listening and always taking things in. The cartoons he mimicked scenes from gave him comfort. They were predictable, easy to understand. It makes sense when you view the world through a different lens.
Now, it is a year post Early Intervention almost and his way of speaking and interacting has changed and grown dramatically. This is most evident in his scripts. Scripts now have words and are clearly echoes of parts of his day. I hear things about school in his scripts, from how the teachers gently ask another child not to touch something to how another staff member is very sharp in demanding quiet from the children. There are still lines from cartoons and now even songs, filled with words and sounds rather than just sounds. It’s remarkable to behold.
Last week, he surprised me. He took his echolalia and turned it into pragmatic speech. He was chilling out as we were driving to his therapy session and whenever we go out, I begin our trip with explaining “okay, first we go (place #1) and then we go (place #2)!” in a cheerful manner. Sometimes this is with visuals but of late it has been without as he’s been doing fine without that extra support. Well, good sir J misses nothing. I had told him where we were going and when I said no to a request for ice cream, he perfectly parroted my manner of speaking when he chimed back with “First ice cream, then home!”
You clever little monkey.
I was laughing so hard, and so very proud. No, we did not get ice cream then go home. We went to therapy, THEN got ice cream and went home.
Last night as I laid down with him to help him go to sleep he was whispering something I could barely hear. I scooted closer and pretended to be asleep as I hugged him and he kept speaking quietly as he settled in to finally go to sleep himself. He was repeating all I usually say to him throughout the day. All the years of narrating our lives was condensed down into a few short minutes of perfect mimicry. It was all I could do not to cry. It was the biggest return on an investment I have ever had.
He’s always listened. I knew that. I never knew how much he retained, for children are children and mom’s voice can go in one ear and out the other at times. This wasn’t the case with J though. My words are there, right in his heart, he just needed time to find a way to show me that.