Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Count on it

My older two sons are a tough bunch with their special needs. So, having a third son whose challenges are mild has been a nice break. We were at his four year checkup while the pediatrician quizzed me on his milestones.

"Stands on one foot? Jumps up and down? Climbs stairs without using the banister?"

Check, check, check. He was on target and I was relieved. We went through a long list of questions. Then,

"Knows what it means to count, beyond rote recitation?"

The fact is, he's pretty good at counting. And he knows his alphabet, and can read some short words. Problem is, I am not used to "typical," so I don't know if he's ahead of the game. In our family, he is. I'm just.. you guessed it... relieved.

We got to the end of the checkup and she announced that he would need five shots. I cringed. I am not in the "no immunizations" camp, for that is too extreme for me. But my mothering instinct tells me that there is some weight to a few of the claims that the extremists have made. I am near the middle, in the "space them out over time" camp. The doctor was very irritated at me for holding my ground, but I held her to just two shots at this visit. She warned,

"You'll have to pay another co-pay at the nurse visit for his next shots."

"I know." I can count. Bring it on, lady! Like additional co-pays would dissuade me when we have autism in our family history. She stopped short of rolling her eyes but respected my position as the mother.

The nurse came in with the syringes and I performed the oh-so-horrible job of pinning my son's arms to his sides as I allowed her to stick him twice. Nine years of this and it still pains me. He cried more than usual so I held and rocked him for a while.

Usually I reward my kids with candy from the grocery check-out line. Having an immunization is the only time that they get such a treat. Today, though, I was hungry, too, so I whispered,

"Would you like to go get a doughnut?"

His crying subsided, though the sniffles remained. His head was buried in my chest and he nodded. Sniffle, snort. Whimper. He paused, then asked meekly,

"Can I have two doughnuts?"

Yes, doctor, he can count.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Watch your language

Freshman year in high school was as painful for me as it is for most people on earth. Add a big growth spurt on top of everything else, and, wow. Just wow. I wonder how so many billions of people make it through pubescence alive.

One bright spot was starting Spanish class. I discovered that I really liked learning another language. Seeing a person's face light up when I attempted their native tongue thrilled me. I even learned more about my own language (gerunds and dipthongs anyone?)

Other languages followed. I taught myself several hundred ASL signs. When I went on to college, I continued studying Spanish and began formal ASL classes. I bought myself a learn-to-speak French software program (but discovered I'd had enough of Romance languages.) While overseas, I studied a bit of modern Hebrew. Upon arrival back in the States, I took three semesters of Arabic. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but why didn't I major in linguistics???

I married a man who is a born linguist. He speaks Portuguese and Arabic (but would claim that he is rusty at both.) What would naturally follow, but children who are linguistically gifted?

Our firstborn was diagnosed with a speech delay. Then our second-born was diagnosed with many things, the least of which was a speech delay. I've kept an eagle eye (ear?) on our third. It can't be called paranoia when there's a rock-solid reason to worry, right?

But, hey, who better to raise children with language problems than parents who have a knack for language, right? Turns out, the sign language I studied came in pretty handy with those kiddos. With hearing children, the use of sign flows pretty smoothly into spoken language.

Now I play language games with my third son. He gets me all to himself during the day. We were in the car and I was working on beginning consonant sounds. I asked,

"What letter makes the 's' sound? Like 's', 's', 'snow'?"


"That's 'esssss.'" I prompted.

We worked on other words we saw along the road, then I tried to mix it up.

"What letter makes the 'm', 'm', 'muh' sound, like 'milk'?"

He was quiet for a moment, then he called out,

"That starts with the letter 'cow'!"

He was so proud of himself.