Language has never been easy for Ian. When other three-year olds were effortlessly babbling about nursery school and cartoons, Ian had trouble pronouncing his own name. He could only call himself "E." He couldn't make it to the second syllable.
He had no control over his own mouth. He couldn't blow out candles on a birthday cake or form a kiss. He couldn't even say "mom."
With massive amounts of therapy and intensive efforts from home, he gradually learned how to talk. Very gradually. You hear about kids who have speech problems, who suddenly get it, and overnight talk like other kids. It wasn't like that with Ian. There have been little spurts here and there, but mostly language has been a steep uphill climb.
We've been very tuned into his language development. For years, I would count the words in his sentences. Very slowly he moved from three word sentences to four and five to more. I noticed when he started using adverbs spontaneously. I did a dance when he asked a "why" question.
Steps in language acquisition that other kids accordion into a few months and that fly by without notice, were major chapters in Ian's life. Adverbs, baby!
Yesterday, Ian and I drove around town doing errands. From the backseat, Ian suddenly asked me, "What's a nanny?" A nanny is someone who watches kids.
"So, are you a nanny?" No, I'm a mom.
"Are you a nanny?" No, I'm a mom. A nanny lives in your house.
"Are you a nanny?" No, I'm a mom. A nanny is someone who watches kids, who lives in your house, when the mom and dad have to go to work. She's like a babysitter, but she's there longer. She gets money for watching the kids.
"What's a daycare provider?" A daycare is like a nursery school. They watch the kids there when the parents go to work.
"Can I go to a daycare?" No, a daycare is only for little kids. You went to a daycare for a little while when you were younger.
"I did?" You went to a nursery school and then you were put on a yellow bus and taken to a daycare.
"I went to TWO schools?" Yes, you did. I'll show you the place next time we're in the old town. So, those are all good words that describe people who watch kids when the mom and the dad have to work: a babysitter, a nanny, and a daycare provider.
"And a caregiver." Yes, Ian. That's also another great word for someone who watches kids.
At that point, we drove through a neighboring town and passed by a series of restaurants.
"Look at that sign. It says Town That Will Not Be Named Inn. I-N-N." [Ian thinks that homophones are very cool.] Yes, an inn is like a tavern.
"Or a pub. Or a hotel." Yes, you can sleep at some inns, so it can be like a hotel.
This went on for a little while. Ian grouped antonyms. He pulled out words that were beyond a normal 10-year vocabulary. I think he's listening to NPR when I'm driving around and storing away words, even words that he doesn't know what they mean.
He collects words and has to intellectually think through how to use them. It's a conscious process. He's learning a first language, the way a college student learns a second language.
Here's a picture of Temple Grandin's brain. Shrivelled language section. Enhancement in other areas. Yes.