Sunday, October 19, 2008

Chutes and Ladders

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I've been on auto-pilot when it
comes to Jada's speech difficulties. Rather than push and probe, I've
learned how to compensate for her shortcomings and to focus my
communication to words and phrases and topics she understands. But
one morning, Jada insisted that I play Chutes and Ladders with her, so
I happily acceded. And in doing so, I found out just how much trouble
she has with comprehension and expression.

The game, if you're not familiar, is simple enough: a 10x10 board with
squares labeled 1 to 100, a spinner that tells you to go one to six
spaces, and chutes and ladders to go up and down if you land on
certain spaces. It's marked "ages 3+," so Jada's right on the front
end of the age range it's targeted for.

But she struggled mightily to understand how to play. She kept
wanting to move my piece instead of hers, she didn't grasp that the
squares were numbered and so you had to advance one by one, and she
even had trouble counting outside of the context of just counting.
She could only repeat what I had just said when I asked her questions
like, "What number did you spin?" or "What number comes after 17?"

I can't tell you how many times she responded to not knowing what to
do by looking away or wanting to jump on my shoulders. Poor thing,
she's clearly uncomfortable when she doesn't understand what is being
said or what to say. To give another example, later that morning,
Aaron was creeping in on her while she was watching TV, and she kicked
him, so I ordered her to the corner for time-out. Afterward, I told
her to go over to Aaron and say, "I'm sorry," but she would keep on
going over to Aaron, look over at me, and tell me, "I'm sorry," even
though I gently corrected her and told her to tell Aaron and not me.

I'm trying not to fret about this, from a Type-A, driven standpoint or
from a "this is frustrating, I give up" standpoint. Neither is very
honoring or helpful to my daughter. But clearly she needs help, and
clearly it affects her ability to interact with others. Hopefully,
the people who evaluated her earlier this month picked up on these
struggles of hers, and can recommend some resources that can help her
improve.

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