Susan's Blog

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Independent Mister

Way back, when Nat was a baby, Ned would give him nicknames depending on his current developmental phase. The nicknames would show up whenever we had to type in monikers on whatever computer game we were playing together at the time, or as log-ins. We had Stand-up Natty, because he loved to push up from our laps and stand on his chubby bow-legs. (All the mothers from the older generations were afraid that he did this. They would worry that he would have bow-legs when he grew up! Turns out you can’t predict what you will have to worry about in the future; Nat’s legs are now Platonically straight.) Thus we had Crawling Mister; Walking Mister; and Talking Mister, when he started to babble.

Then came the chaotic years where so much was happening (or not happening) that we turned to other nicknames to express our love: Baby Delight; Sweet Guy; Natty Boy… Most of these have continued on into his near-adulthood; not because he is a baby but because I just do that with my boys. I baby them as much as they allow (none of them allow much but they do allow the nicknames. They understand the kind of Mommy they have {Ned calls me a “Shmommy,” based on a nickname that he gave to baby Benji, during the phase where we were calling him “Shmengy Polka,” and then “Shmeng-a-leng-a-lei,” and then the terrible but hilarious, “Dr. Shmengele.” Being a Shmommy is more special than a Mommy because it means you are Shmengy’s Mommy, very soft and squooshy in personality and all else.}) and so they tolerate this.

Thursday night I spoke to Sarah at Nat’s House for the evening update. The way that works is the House staff calls me first and talks to me about various salient points of Nat’s day, and then they have him call me back for our nightly conversation. Sometimes they put the phone on Speaker and help him answer questions (I have come to realize that I prefer the phone not to be on Speaker because it is harder for me to hear him and I think it makes it extra noisy for him, so he spaces out. I’ll have to tell them to take the phone off Speaker once they know that I’ve picked up. It works better for Nat and me if I can help him answer me.). The best conversations I’ve had with him, however, are off Speaker, just him and me, as I described here.

I had another great talk with Nat, similar to the other night’s, where Nat was focused and very “on.” Then when I spoke to Sarah she told me that Nat and K, another boy at the House, played Connect Four together. Apparently K has a cold and kept spacing out. Sarah told me that Nat noticed this and didn’t seem to know what to do about it. Sarah explained to him, “Nat, you can remind K…”

So Nat tapped K on the leg and said, “Excuse me, K, it’s your turn!” and K snapped out of it and resumed playing.

What I like about the way his staff and teachers do things these days is that they don’t use prompts so much as reminders. They don’t give him words to parrot; they give him cues and reminders as to the social rules, or choices of things he can say or do. His socializing is not robotic and it has moved beyond his scripts, though the scripts helped lay the foundation for the basics of responding in conversations. The generalization from scripted language to independent language really can happen given enough time and consistency. It took years, but I think Nat has grasped the concept, as long as we all help him practice and internalize it.

Now that he has the formula for most conversations, he puts his responses together using his own word choices. For example, just now he came downstairs with just a thin longsleeve T shirt on his thin, long frame and I, swaddled in PJs, cardigan, Ned’s shirt, and an afghan, said, “Nat, if you’re cold you can put on a sweatshirt.”

“Yes,” he replied.

“Nat where’s your sweatshirt?” I persisted, because he had not gotten the sweatshirt.

“You have it at Allerton Shreet.” And he walked away from me. Meaning, yes, the sweatshirt is here, but I don’t need to go put it on, stop bugging me. And actually, this is far more than I get out of Max, who will just shrug and grunt, “It’s fine.”


Nats continuing progress is always a source of hope for me with my D, and does also shed alot of doubt on that early intervention window theory. All my kid got out of extremely early intervention was the word “bubbles”after 1 1/2 years. Now he is four and talking spontaniously. This morning he came up to me and said 92, and I am the only one in the world who would know he wanted me to put his shorts on that has the number 92 on them. After further instructing me in socks and shoes he said Teresa, his teachers name. But alas its Saturday and no school. When he realized we werent going his comment was “PINCHING!!!!”You can guess the rest!

— added by eileen on Saturday, October 25, 2008 at 8:19 am

Your son’s progress is testament to the strength you showed letting him go. He is a young adult and able to experience the fun and challenges all young adults face. Good for you and good for Nat!

— added by Anonymous on Sunday, October 26, 2008 at 1:18 pm