Monday, January 17, 2011

Those Tricky Pronouns

Ethan's come a long way with language in the past year. About this time last January I was thrilled to hear him start to put two words together ("garage up!" "light off!"). Now he's a regular chatterbox, in his own way. And while I'd definitely say Ethan has had that language explosion you hear people talk about (it just came about a year later than a typical child), as he learns language, he at times seems to have to work twice as hard. As with so many kids on the autism spectrum, pronouns are his nemesis.

I'm not sure why this is. My guess is that it has something to do with the way he learns language. He's not necessarily absorbing it, he's at times memorizing it. So if he hears me say enough times, "Mommy came to pick you up!" that's the way he will repeat it back to me, which he says every day when I get him at school. "Mommy got you!" he announces with joy.

"Mommy got ME," I'll say back to him, realizing too late that sure enough, the next time he says it to me, he'll say it in exactly the same way. "Mommy got ME!" with the same big emphasis I put on the word. When he needs help on the potty, it's always, "Mommy help you?" Until I remind him...then I can see him work to get the words right. "Mommy help yo...ME!" he'll say with gusto.

His and her are a whole other batch of confusion. It doesn't help that that technically ties into the whole who is a boy/who is a girl thing, which is extremely difficult to explain, since there aren't too many clear-cut ways to differentiate these days that don't involve certain body parts. Ethan is beginning to get the concept but trying to carry it over to pronouns is even more confusing. "Anna got his coat," he told me today, and I had to give the boy credit for even trying. Then of course, in that situation he was actually trying to say, "Anna get YOUR coat."

Poor kid. I never realized how befuddling language can actually be. We throw phrases around and some of them are easy to pick up. A person sneezes, for example, and we say "God bless you." Ethan loves that one. Someone gives us something and we say "thanks." Then there's "you're welcome," which every time I have said to Ethan, he thinks he needs to repeat as well. What IS the point of "you're welcome," anyway? Autism makes one entertain such thoughts.

For the longest time Ethan was prefering to speak in two to three-word phrases. Now he's decided to stretch that to four or five-word sentences, but I've noticed in order to do that, he's got to work out more things in his mind. "Ready go?" he used to ask when it was time to leave the house. Now he's attempting to stretch that into "Ready to go?" but it comes out "Ready FOR go?"

Sometimes I correct; sometimes I just let it go. He's sorting it all out, as all kids do. It may take him longer. He may be learning in a different way. But he's learning.

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