Earlier today, I was working in my office when the door slowly opened and I heard a voice say, “Hi, Eddie.” This is how my son greets people. He is in the process of learning how to talk to others, but often his references are confusing to those that don’t know him. When he says, “Hi, Eddie” I know he is trying to say hi to me. So, I say, “Hi, Eddie,” can you say, “Hi, Mom?” Usually, he immediately says, “Hi, Mom.”
Eddie’s tricky way of communicating can make it hard for him to be understood. For example, when he says, “Want some lunch?” he means he is hungry himself. He says, “Are you all done?” instead of “I’m all done.” When he is trying to make a statement with a question, I usually cue him with, “What do you say?” Following that, he will sometimes say, “I’m all done” or “I want lunch.”
This is not an uncommon step in delayed talkers. Instead of coming up with his own words, he is using ours to get his needs met. This is an exciting time because he is talking more daily, even if it isn’t always using proper grammar. If you are like us, and you have waited years for words, you’ll take them any way they come. He may not ace language arts anytime soon, but he is reaching out to others and giving himself a voice.
Right now, his school staff is working on improving his speech so he does learn how to speak properly, which requires cues and prompts when he’s at home as well. Sometimes, Eddie’s other “language” is hard to follow by those that don’t know him. They may think he is actually asking them a question, when he is asking for help, and miscommunications can be very frustrating for Eddie. Therefore, we try to educate those around him so they can understand what he’s trying to get across.
What I’ve always tried to do is acknowledge every type of communication. If words come out of his mouth, I want him to know right away that they mean something. This has turned into a favorite game of ours. He sings often, and when I recognize a song he is singing, I try to add the next verse. I like to think this has helped Eddie increase his communication skills. He goes from being in his own world, to sharing a conversation with me through music.
I’m learning so much about Eddie all the time and acknowledging his way of communicating, no matter how unconventional, has been so important for our relationship. I’d say if you sometimes struggle understanding your own child, try to meet them on their level. It’s not much different than mimicking the sounds of an infant, and equally effective.