Thursday, March 31, 2011
I love talking with my son, Josh. He has such interesting perspectives and the way he verbally expresses himself gives me insight into how he thinks and processes information. When he was young, Josh had some difficulty remembering words so he would use descriptions to get his point across. He once described his ankle as "you know, that part that's like the wrist of your leg". He tended to use vague words such as "thing" and "that" rather than specific word labels. Despite the circumlocutions, I could always tell what Josh was talking about. Since Josh struggled to recognize many nonverbal signals and had to be taught how to use appropriate body language when he interacted, I could never take it for granted that Josh would just pick up on social cues and be able to express himself adequately. He could learn how to interact with other people, but he had to be taught specific discrete skills for social interactions. For my daughters, social skills came naturally and they just seemed to intuitively know how to relate to others. For Josh, it was like being in a foreign land where everyone else seemed to know the language but he struggled to learn basic communication and was vulnerable to being frequently misunderstood. I did speech therapy with Josh to work on conversational turn-taking, topic maintenance, and nonverbal ways to let a listener know he was interested. Unfortunately, Josh often was not interested in what others wanted to talk about, so then I had to teach him about being polite and a good friend by sometimes letting someone else take the conversational lead. Once Josh had some of the basic skills for social interaction and was able to express himself more effectively, he continued to practice and fine tune his communication exchanges. I noticed that Josh often did not respond when given a compliment. Outside of the family, Josh didn't get many positive comments so he didn't really know how to respond when it happened. I talked to Josh about possible responses and we role-played several situations together. After our practice session I reminded Josh that he had lots of strengths worthy of compliments so it was good that he was learning how to respond to them. Josh informed me that "Vanity was never my strongest weakness." Say what? After some probing (they don't call me the Momster for nothing) I was able to help Josh expand his message so that I could understand what he meant. His intention was to indicate that although he was aware that he had many significant challenges, being vain was not one of them. Therefore, he needed some help in learning how to respond to compliments. Even today, Josh comes up with some unique responses that catch me by surprise. Just this morning our dogs were playing and one of them ran over and stood next to me. I said, "Look, Josh, she's on base." After a brief pause, Josh jokingly said, "Then I'll be lead guitar." Say what? Translation: "base" sounds like "bass" as in a type of guitar. What's a band without both bass and lead guitars? Josh was making a play on words, and at least now he understands what I say and makes a deliberate choice to joke and say funny things.