Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Comprehension

Jada had her speech therapy appointment today. It was a battery of
tests, from asking her questions about a series of pictures to
checking her eardrums to make sure they're OK. The good news is that
her hearing is fine. The not so good news is that she's
developmentally behind on both comprehending and expressing. She has
an impressive vocabulary, and if she's heard a conversation before she
knows how to go back and forth; but relatively simply exchanges she
struggles with, because she doesn't quite understand what's being
asked and also doesn't necessarily know how to string the words
together to respond. So she could name all the objects and colors in
the pictures, for example, but if shown a picture of a busted-up
bicycle and asked, "Daddy hurt his knee, what happened," she didn't
quite know what she was being asked or what to say in response.

So there's a multi-faceted response to her being behind on these
fronts. Immediately, we can get a consultation for early
intervention, which is offered by pretty much every county in the
country. This is available through a local social service provider,
and we'll have a sense of our alternatives from there once they
diagnose where she needs help. In parallel, we can get in line for a
developmental pediatrician, whose assessment and support would be more
comprehensive than just verbal communication; that wait could be
several months, but it's worth taking a number.

Finally, it's on Amy and me to engage Jada more in the verbal realm.
We've settled into a comfortable routine in terms of how we
communicate with Jada, and we need to push her past that and start
asking tougher questions and helping her learn more complicated
sentences. Some examples: narrating through a bedtime story and
asking her questions about what's going on, having her play messenger
between the two of us and giving her the words to say to the other
person, having her tell us what's happening in a family photo or
series of photos.

I'm a little bummed that our Jada isn't a child prodigy and that she's
going to need extra help catching up. I am trying not to make it
about her intellectual levels defining her or defining us, vis a vis
our peers, although it is easy to do both. Most of all, I'm a bit
relieved that we have some confirmation of things we had suspected,
and a game plan for getting her the help she needs so she can be more
confident and more communicative.

At no time have I thought her dumb or slow - not that there's anything
wrong in one sense if a child is either. If anything, I got a kick at
Jada's spunk, assertiveness, and quick thinking while interacting with
the therapists: she burst forward whenever we were told to move on to
another room, she eagerly picked up coins to put in the toy parking
meter even though she was only supposed to play with them one at a
time as she answered each question, and she sang to herself as she
draw a smiley face while we were waiting for one station to open up.
So she has a lot going for her up in the noggin area. But it's clear
she needs help with her verbals, and I'm hoping that the next steps we
take will get her that help.

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