Friday, January 17, 2014

Why babble when you can shriek?

I had hoped that when Faith had her surgery, she would experience a sudden and rapid development of her language and communication skills.  Being able to hear would surely advance things along in a way that not being able to hear had certainly slowed them, right?

Faith says, "WHAT happened to my hair??"
I was right to hope that.  She has experienced a sudden and rapid growth in her language and communication.  I guess I just should have been more specific in my hoping.  Because when I think good and hard about it, I realize that when I hoped for "language development" and "communication skills,"  what I was actually hoping for was some ma-ma-ma-mas - to add to her well-versed repertoire of da-da-da-da and ba-ba-ba-ba - and perhaps some simple signs for "more" and "all done" and "Mommy" in place of inarticulate yelling.

She's definitely more vocal post-surgery.  It's just that the vocalizations that emerged are a varied and animated set of screeches and shrieks, often coupled with banging and flapping.  The yell she's particularly fond of can be roughly translated to "FEED ME MORE NOW!"  It's kind of an "eh-eh-eh-eh" except more like "EH-EH-EH-EH!" with her whole face contorting - eyes squinting, cheeks tightening and pulling back into a dissatisfied grin.

I was really hoping for some ma-ma's, but she's still just been perfecting her ba-ba's - which she performs willingly - chin jutted out, cheeks puffed and bobbing up and down like two round water balloons on a string.

And of course, there's the raspberry-blowing which has lost nearly all of its charm - particularly because she chooses to employ it most often with a mouthful of dinner.  "NO, Faith," I say sternly and she laughs at me.

"Say 'Mommy,'" I say while signing my thumb on my chin, "Mom-my."


"Say 'bye-bye!'" I say, flapping my arms like an idiot.

Blank stare.

"Say 'more, please,'" I tap my pinched fingers together and rub my hand over my chest, signing more and please.

"Pfffffffffftttt," Faith spits.

"NO, Faith," I shake my head and keep my voice low and stern.

"Ha." Faith says, her shoulders shrugging as she says it as though she's subconsciously communicating her complete ambivalence to my preference to not be spit upon.

Then she she voices her distaste for the unnecessary pause in her dinner for a language lesson with a series of loud "EH-EH-EH-EH-EH-EH!!!" and punctuated banging on her tray.  She persists until I put food in her mouth and then, as an afterthought, looks directly at me and shouts one more "EH!" for good measure.

Now, lest you think I am having unrealistic expectations of her, having Down syndrome and all, let me be clear that she is smart.  She knows exactly what I am saying - I can tell because she grins at me when I guess correctly or continues to yell if I don't.  And I know soon enough she'll figure out how to say what she wants rather than relying on me making educated guesses based on her animated gestures and grunts and yells.  So please don't misinterpret my annoyance at this in-between stage as annoyance with her.  In many ways, parenting a child with special needs is just like parenting a neuro-typical child - there are stages that you just can't wait to be past and others you want to freeze in time to enjoy forever.  Forgive me, but I'm ready to be past the stage in which I get sprayed in the face with pureed veggies on a daily basis.

The good news is we have added speech and occupational therapy to our weekly therapies so we will be working intentionally and specifically on these skills.  In the meantime, I plan to continue to relentlessly sign "Mommy" to her because it WILL be her first word, mark my words. I write she is waving bye-bye to...the kitchen cabinets?  Well, it's progress.

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