Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What's This?

I can't say how many times I have asked myself some variation of this question since becoming Oliver's mother. What's this new thing? This new insight? This new behavior? This new sleep pattern? Is this a new emerging skill or a one-time thing? In a comment on someone's blog recently I referred to myself as the Puzzle-Master because I am always trying to figure things out, to see patterns and devise strategies and approaches. My greatest frustration and the source of a lot of anxiety for me is the not knowing if I've got the right answer, if I'm doing the right thing, too much or too little. And sometimes, when I focus too much on what I think is lacking in my own abilities to get it right, I get stuck; I get overwhelmed with inertia.

Since Oliver's bout with the flu a few weeks ago, when his frustration over not being able to communicate seemed to take center stage even while his fever hovered in the so-high-it-makes-me-nervous numbers, I've been stewing. I've written before that Oliver's silence has almost become overlooked at our house these days. He is just our Oliver and he doesn't talk. We are happy when we hear words but it hasn't been our focus over the past year. Starting RDI helped me to feel more comfortable about not focusing on the language bit. Instead our goal became communication, which is a vastly different thing. And I've been so happy with his progress overall that it has helped me not to be so panicked by his lack of speech.

But then again, I would really love to hear what he has to say. I would love to know if he is cold or hungry or what he finds so funny. And I never want him to again be so frustrated because he can't say: "Just leave me alone!"

On the upside, Oliver is trying to use language more and more. I can ask him simple questions and he can respond:

"What's this?"

"A cow."

"How does a cow go?"


And he is repeating much more of what I say and can label just about anything. But it is all prompted. Very little of it is spontaneous. And I am starting to see that he has trouble making certain sounds. And sometimes he has trouble being able to produce a word that I know he knows. And sometimes he just says the first sound or syllable of the word. And sometimes he just tries to get away from me!

So what to do? If speaking is something that causes anxiety for Oliver then I don't want to keep pressuring him to talk by always asking questions. On the other hand, it is SO encouraging to hear his little voice and to know that he knows certain things. It gives me immeasurable hope. And yet I find myself almost constantly barraging him with questions and that isn't right either. Who wants to be constantly bombarded with questions?

After thinking about it a lot I determined that I need to find a structured approach that will help to address his issues of competency so that his level of anxiety will also gradually decrease. So for now I have settled on the Association Method because it is a "multi-sensory" approach to teaching language syllable by syllable. In a way this very much parallels the RDI approach to autism remediation in that areas of challenge are addressed in a very incremental way that focuses on building competencies.

I am more than a little anxious about getting started. I'm not a teacher or a speech pathologist. I never could learn grammar, myself. Why do I think I can do this? And this method teaches reading and writing simultaneously. ... Is this biting off more than I can chew? More than Oliver and I can chew together? Well, maybe. But I'm going to give it a try anyway. But gently. And hopefully Oliver and I will develop our competencies as we go along. Together.

Isn't it amazing the world that opens up to you when you are a parent?


  1. The thing with Autism interventions, is that you don't know if it will work, until you have tried it with YOUR child. Several years, and thousands of wasted dollars later, you may actually have a working plan:P

  2. Anonymous7:14 AM

    good luck with this new method. i have no doubts about your ability to learn it and teach it and that oliver, well, he is one smart dude!

  3. Anonymous10:52 PM

    I'm also looking into using the Association Method with my son who's 7.What is appealing to me is that it uses reading and writing. My son from the age of 4 was able to recognise many written words. he was entirely self taught. Very often seeing the written word is a trigger for him to be able to say the word. Good luck. you never know Oliver might already be recognising written words.

  4. One thing that got me to thinking about the Association Method is that you NEVER ask a question until you teach how to answer it. You teach the sentence first and work on it until the child becomes competent. Only when the child is competent with that question, do you teach the child how to ask questions associated with the sentence.

    That means that you are not just focusing on getting information out of the child. You are teaching them that they can get information from other people. That, in a true relationship, sometimes you share ideas and, at other times, you ask for ideas.