Over the course of the last two years, Joshua and I have spent a lot of time together, more so than in any other period of his life. During this time, he has been able to develop his limited repertoire of language to be able to get what he wants. Wherever possible, my rule is that if he asks for something clearly and it is within my grasp to be able to deliver what he has asked for, he will be rewarded. Most of his single words relate to food items : ‘Crisps’, ‘chocolate’ ‘juice’ and ‘apple’ are his most frequent requests and I ensure that we have each of those favourites available at all times. We were at a good friend’s house recently and Joshua asked her for ‘crisps’; sadly despite searching her cupboards, she had none in the house, much to his incredulity and he reluctantly settled for a healthier apple.
But Joshua is also able to dictate what activities he would like to partake in , in a similarly blunt manner and his options include ; ‘Car’, ‘cafe’, ‘bath’, ‘boots’ ‘music’ – which means that he wishes to go into the lounge where he listens to ‘The Verve’ endlessly! -, ‘Giant’ – which means he wants to go to bed where he listens to his audio book ‘The Smartest Giant in Town’ -, ‘duck’ – which means that he wants to play with his talking duck toy that repeats whatever he says and this amuses him greatly -, ‘box’ – where we throw things into a box! -, ‘out’ when he has had enough of his bath and ‘pod’. It is fantastic that he is able to make this clear requests and whenever possible, I try hard to oblige. When we are home-based then it is possible to grant these simple requests but often his timing is not great. He will see that we are about to go out and he will head upstairs requesting Giant or bath. Sometimes, he makes a request simply to get attention if perhaps I am engaged in chores that mean I am distracted or as soon as I go into the kitchen to prepare a meal. He can very insistent with these requests too, repeating them endlessly until I am worn down into submission.
When Joshua was 3 or 4, he had excellent manners and he was very keen on ‘please’ and ‘you’re welcome’. In fact if he thanked someone and they did not say ‘you’re welcome’, he would stare at them intently and prompt ‘You welcome?’ which always made me laugh. But sadly now, when he has much less language, these phrases have mostly disappeared. He does however use ‘thank you’ to let you know that he is grateful, when you arrive at one of his favourite places for instance or when you make a suggestion that he likes such as going out in the car, after he has had a quiet time in the house and is ready for a change.
I am however delighted that he is able to use language enough to express his preferences and it bodes well for when he finally starts at Daycare, so that he can make some clear choices there too, once he understands what his options are. These tend to be requests from him, we have not yet mastered him consistently choosing from a list of alternatives and selecting his preference, but it will come in time, I am sure . Yesterday was a bright, dry afternoon and so I suggested that we visit his pod outside. He did not say yes but he looked at me with a grin, leapt up out of his chair and headed for the door, leaving me in no doubt that he approved of the suggestion, and ignoring the fact that he was barefoot. We stayed there for around an hour but there was a cold wind and so he asked to go back indoors by pointing at the house and saying ‘back home’, so his intentions were very clear.
Joshua is not able to have a conversation but he has developed his functional language recently, such that he is able to get what he wants and this is an invaluable and must make him feel more empowered and less frustrated. I think back to the time that his seizures were so bad that he had no energy or capacity to speak at all; I still get a thrill from hearing his deep voice and from him being able to communicate on a real and practical level. Joshua will not allow himself to be ignored and by bossing me around, he certainly makes his presence felt.