Monday, October 3, 2011

speaking out the spider's web

I remember it very clearly: the day my son began talking in sentences. It was a sunny day and we were all out in the backyard. Therapy with a three year old looks like play. It is play-based: meeting the kid where his interests are. This particular day Calder was enjoying sitting in the wooden slatted landing to his slide. A large swing/slide set his grandparents all pitched in and bought him for Christmas.

Calder wanted so badly to have us give him some colorful plastic balls to roll down the slide, but he didn't know how to ask for them, causing much frustration. Our therapist, Zoe, tried prompting him to say "three balls please". A three-word sentance was a real challenge back's hard to believe. But regardless, at almost 3 years of age, he had few words he could speak. I could see his little brain trying so hard to organize his thoughts and bring them to life, but alas, frustration.

It was then that Zoe decided to use rhythm. She accompanied "three balls please" with three taps on the wooden slats. One tap per board per word. And his eyes lit up! THIS, he could do. I can still see his face now, so happy and relieved. The door opened. Calder then used his own hand and while tapping three times on the wooden slats was able to say "three balls please". We all were so happy for him. We did this over and over again. Each time Calder wanted to ask for three balls he couldn't until he looked over at the slats of wood and tapped his hands on three of them, and each time he did this the words flowed out his mouth easily.

A huge step was made that day. Some children and adults on the spectrum remain non-verbal their whole lives. They are intelligent and have much to say, but their words are trapped in a web of crossed wiring. Like a doomed insect caught in a spider's web. Many things have to take place in the brain for speech function. We take it for granted most of the time that we are able to process incoming and outgoing language. And it all happens effortlessly...for most but not for all.

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