Speaking “Monster”

As we’re preparing for an IEP meeting at some point in the near future, the thing that keeps jumping out at us is the need for an environment where they can intensively work on his communication skills.

Now, it’s never been a secret that the Monster has issues with communication – R, his younger brother by four years, speaks in nearly complete sentences on a regular basis, while the Monster speaks in fixed snippets most of the time.  He can read letters, and he can make out some sight words, but he’s hardly “reading”, and he’s not really speaking on anything approaching an appropriate age-level.  And half the time… it’s a guessing game.

That’s not to say that he doesn’t communicate effectively a good portion of the time.  He’ll frequently say things that are very clearly intended and have definite meanings.  There are, after all, few enough ways to interpret the declaration of “Eat!” or “Drink!”  Or, when it’s late (for him) and he starts edging towards the stairs to go up, it’s clear that he’s ready to sleep and is mostly waiting for us to ask him if he wants to go to bed.  Or if he starts on about “beans”, we know that means he took himself to the bathroom, since jelly beans are his reward for toileting properly.

On the other end of the spectrum, so to speak, there are the random fill in words.  I can’t tell you how often I have the word “Banana!” shouted at me, and have to guess what he’s talking about.  (The Monster does eat bananas, but that’s not entirely that frequent, and he’ll often shout it when the food-item isn’t in appropriate context.)  Or “Ernie and Bert”, and I’m supposed to guess what it means, because that’s usually out of the blue as part of a conversation which has little to do with public television.

So before y’all start suggesting, “why don’t you ask him questions and see if you can figure out what he means,” yes… asking questions is an excellent way to find out answers.  (Thank you again, Sesame Street.)  Except that he answers ‘yes’ to almost everything, even when he means ‘no’.  (He’s quite capable of saying no when he really wants to say no, like when we offer him a food item that he’s not familiar with or in the mood for.  I think he says yes because he likes pleasing people.)  Getting to the root of it usually involves the slow, careful offering of a slew of options until you get something that he’s going to latch on to, or until he gives an emphatic response one way or the other.

I’m very hopeful that we can get him into a program that works intensively on these skills next year… if only because the longer this is left where it is, the harder it’s going to be to integrate him into society later, and the more stress on us…

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