Band-Aid solution

9 Aug

This morning I had one of those little moments with George that I love so much, one of those “Wow” moments that indicate progress. I was engaged in my usual frenetic morning activity – getting myself ready, getting James ready, trying to find time to cram some breakfast into me, trying to keep up with James’ constant chatter and questions about why birds have feathers. George was still in his pyjamas – his morning routine is his Dad’s responsibility – and he was wandering around counting in his sweet little sing-song voice. I noticed him heading towards the stairs, and somewhat absently, I said, “George, where are you going?” George replied, “Upstairs”, and upstairs he went. I continued with whatever I was doing, and it was only about ten minutes later, when I was trying to shoehorn a reluctant James into his socks, that I suddenly thought, “Holy crap! George appropriately answered a ‘Where’ question!”

George’s speech – or the lack thereof – is a source of deep concern to Gerard and myself. We know that he can speak – in other words, he has the physical capacity to do so. We know from the sentences that he constructs out of fridge magnets that he has the vocabulary and the ability to string a decent sentence together.  He simply chooses not to talk. I don’t think he has anything against it, he just doesn’t see the point of it. He doesn’t see speech as a social communication tool, he sees it as a functional tool to be used only when he wants something and is not able to get it himself. This is why, when George answers a question so naturally and spontaneously instead of simply giving me a blank gaze and going on his way, it is a big deal. We are starting to see these little glimpses into a world of language for George, and it never fails to lift our spirits.

We had one of those glimpses about a week ago, when I was in the house doing the never-diminishing pile of laundry (I have come to the conclusion that clothes in laundry baskets actually reproduce) and George was playing in the sprinkler in the back yard. All of a sudden I heard him cry out in what sounded like pain. With James on my heels, I went out to see what was going on, and there he was, sitting on one of the patio chairs clutching his foot.  I asked him what was wrong, and he looked me right in the eye and said, “I need a Band-Aid”.  James, bless his little heart, immediately said, “I’ll get them!” and he hotfooted it into the house. While James was inside, I coaxed George into showing me his big toe, which had a cut on it from a thorn on a weed.

Now, previously, George would have simply freaked out.  The sight of blood, even a little bit of it, scares him a lot, to the point where he can barely function. But this time, he had presence of mind to hold it together for long enough to identify and label exactly what was needed. Once he had communicated it to me, he allowed himself to fall apart a little. He was visibly relieved when James came flying out of the house with the Band-Aids, and once the wound had been covered up, he calmed down completely.

I immediately went through the sequence of events with him. George got hurt. George knew he needed a Band-Aid. George asked for a Band-Aid. George got a Band-Aid, and now George is OK. That simple reinforcement was intended to cement in his mind that when he speaks, things happen that relate directly to what he is saying.

Now, if only that were the case when I try talking to my husband while he is channel-surfing…

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