It’s term 3 of school, we’ve all found our groove and things are cruising along pretty nicely. It’s a busy Tuesday at work and my phone beeps… it’s Harry’s SSO. She has sent me a very excited text saying Harry has said 2 words together.
A bit of background on Harry’s verbal speech. Harry has about 10 words that he can say verbally. Coordinating his muscles is really tough for him so they’re all single words and all require one mouth movement. They’re all pretty functional words too, smart kid, things like “up”, “help” and “ball” (essential in H’s basketball-centred world).
We’ve done PROMPT therapy (a tactile therapy where the speechie uses their hands to touch his mouth and jaw to prompt him about which muscles to use to form a word) in the past and we still praise and encourage him when he’s trying to say something verbally. He’ll sometimes even prompt himself but, to be honest, it’s not really something that we ‘work’ on. It’s not that we don’t want him to use his voice, but I can see how incredibly difficult it is for him and how hard he tries and so that’s enough. He has his talker, his PODD book, his signs and his verbal words in his conversation toolbox so he doesn’t need to rely on only one form of communication. If he isn’t able to get his meaning across with one method, he can try another. Frustration is never the goal.
Anyhoo, I arrive at school that arvo feeling rather intrigued about Harry’s 2 words. As the classroom doors open and I walk in, I am surrounded by a bunch of excited 6 year olds all talking at me; “Look what Harry can say”, “Harry can say oh yeah”, “say oh yeah Harry”.
Harry is beaming! He looks at his buddies and, as clear as day, he says “oh yeah”. “Say it again Harry” says a friend who then reaches out to touch Harry’s face in exactly the way a speechie would PROMPT a child to make an “o” sound. “Oh yeah” he says filled with pride. “I showed him how to say it”, says one of Harry’s best buddies. (I later find out that he’s been determined to teach Harry to say “oh yeah” and the two of them had been working on it for about 3 weeks.)
Look, let’s be honest, if Harry’s speechie or I were to really focus on getting him to say 2 words together, would those 2 words be ‘oh yeah”? Probably not, Actually, make that definitely not. They’re not the most functional of words really are they? Or are they? I don’t know, maybe “oh yeah” is all the rage with Aussie 6 year olds, what do I know?
And what if I had been working for weeks on getting Harry to say 2 words – would we have gotten there? Perhaps. Would the motivation for him have been as high as with his buddies? Almost certainly not.
As I’m surrounded by all his excited friends and a delighted Harry, I blink back a few happy tears. Harry said 2 words together and he learnt it without me, without my involvement in every little step of his therapy. In fact I had no idea at all that this was going on and it wasn’t “therapy”, it was fun and learning with his friends. What a wonderful step towards independence, what a wonderful glimpse of what could be….