Over the summer it suddenly occurred to me that Oliver couldn't answer yes/no questions. How could that have escaped me? Well, Oliver can say "No, no, no, no, no!" when he is asked to do something that he clearly doesn't want to do. And he can say "Yes" when you ask him if he wants a cookie. But if you ask him if he wants to wear the red shirt, he has no idea what you are looking for by way of an answer. It has been difficult for me to realize that Oliver didn't even have a grasp on this, most basic, form of communication. No wonder other, more advanced, concepts have proven so difficult for him. So for the past six weeks at our house everything has been about yes and no. And slowly, slowly, he is getting it and our lives are getting easier with his increasing mastery. Because as Oliver realizes that he can influence his environment with yes and no, he is also learning how to express his own preferences. We don't have complete mastery. There are still times when Oliver will answer No when I'm pretty sure he means Yes and vice versa. But we are so close that I can't stop myself from wondering what comes next. What else will this unlock for us?
I can't help but think of this in the context of an on-going conversation that I've been having with our SLP. She doesn't feel as though she is being particularly effective with Oliver. She thinks he needs to be in the classroom. She thinks he needs to be with his same-aged peers. She thinks he will learn more in that environment than with just 45 minutes of speech once a week.
What I said to her in response is this: Developmentally, Oliver is not ready to learn from his peers. Putting him in a classroom where he is only able to fully understand and participate in about 25% of the activities would be extremely stressful to him. And why is it assumed that Oliver will "pick up" speech and social behaviors from his peers when he isn't "picking them up" from his family and home environment? If Oliver is developmentally delayed -- if he is not functioning at the same level as other five year olds -- then why should any of us expect that he function in an atmosphere that is designed for a five year old? I don't care, at the moment, if Oliver can count or say his ABCs (although he can do both). I just want him to say Yes and No reliably. I want him to be able to communicate his needs and desires. Will they focus on these two things in the school as I am at home? All day, everyday? I doubt it.
I believe all of this. I do. But it is hard to remain confident in the face of so much skepticism. And it is terribly draining to have to constantly convince others (you know, the ones with initials after their names) that I know what I'm talking about and that I'm not doing a terrible dis-service to Oliver by not doing what conventional education theory recommends. And I have to admit that part of me would like nothing better than to hand over the reigns and responsibility to people who probably don't question themselves as much as I do.
Apparently Oliver isn't the only one in our family who is learning to say Yes and No with confidence and conviction. Apparently I'm on my own developmental track as well!