Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Yes" and "No"

People always talk about when kids get to a certain age and discover language, how they relish the power of two words: "No" and "Mine."

I kept waiting for that with Anna, who has been very strong-willed from just about birth, a chatterbox from nine months on, and never one to mince words when it came to what she wanted or didn't want. However, my typical child was not so typical in this area. She rarely abused the "no" word and hardly ever used "mine."

Fast forward to Ethan, where "no" is a different matter. It's funny, the way language and gestures progress. You don't notice certain things unless they are missing, and you don't notice how they progress sometimes unless you see them happening a bit more slowly than with a typical child. Last year I remember marvelling as my friend ask her daughter (who was maybe 14 months old) if she wanted a cracker. She shook her head no. For me, a light bulb went off. Ethan was about 18 months old at the time and wasn't able to do that. That was a year ago and I already don't remember how he told us he didn't want something. Ignored me? Cried? It's amazing how quickly the memory fades.

In therapy they always talk about how the first goal is to get your child to express his wants and needs. In simplest terms, that means a head shake, a point, a smile. Somewhere along the line, around the time Ethan first started therapy, we got "no" down. "No" really started with pointing to something else to indicate I hadn't chosen what he wanted...then a head shake...and back a few months ago, finally a "No!" Now we get "no" appropriately the majority of the time.

After "no" became easy they began working on making it conversational. This was back a couple of months ago. Jessica or the others would start making some zany statement that Ethan would know was wrong ("Do cars go in the sky?" "Are you eating pizza?" when he was having crackers) and Ethan would shake his head and say "no." This became a game that of course then Ethan learned TOO well. He started saying "no" to everything because it got a laugh and a response, and he stopped really thinking about what they were saying and memorized the pattern. The reason it got a response from me and Dan especially, is because it felt like the first inkling of a real, honest-to-goodness conversation with our son.

Soon we started making the conversation game always end with a question that should end with "yes." Ethan would undoubtedly say "no" and then we'd stop him. "No??? You ARE drinking juice. YES!" Ethan's yes is a sweet little "Yesh!" The first time we heard it was about three weeks ago. We are making good progress with getting "yes" responses, and I love it. This is such a little thing, but I cherish it just as much as the stories Anna was telling at his age. We often have to prompt Ethan to fill the "yes" in, but he learns quickly. Outside today, for example. He was pushing me down the slide and I asked him if he wanted me to go down the slide again.

"Slide again!" he answered enthusiastically. Using those two words together would have been big news back in January. But he's moving on. "You mean, yes?" I gently asked him, and he repeated yes back to me. A few minutes later, I went down and asked him again.

"Ethan, do you want me to go down again?"

"Slide ag--" He stopped and thought for a second. I could see the gears turning and he exclaimed, "Yesh!!"

I don't care if it's yes, no, or mine. Actually mine would be a really cool thing. Anyway, he can say them ad nauseum. I'm savoring every word.

No comments: