We were in the car this morning when a rubbish truck rattled past. ” Noisy!” Henry said. If you have watched the video attached to my last post, you will understand how happy this made me.
Henry has been speaking to request things since he was four. But that is all he has ever done with words. For him, it seems, language is a tool to get the things he wants – food, DVDs, games. We’re working on extending the barked commands – ‘ Toast! Thomas! Tickle! ‘ – to a more complex (and socially acceptable) ‘More X please’, which works because of the built in reward factor: you can withhold the request until the whole phrase has been said. But encouraging comments is much, much harder because it has no immediate pay-off. We can point at stuff when we’re out and sometimes, if he’s in a good mood, he’ll tell us what it is. But unprompted speech to comment on a sight, an experience, to share attention? Never. It’s a problem that’s been occupying me for some time – he has a very basic level of functional language, sure, but without comments it’s difficult to develop it into conversational speech. Yet the fact that he’s happy to engage in the gestural back and forth of Intensive Interaction, with all its characteristics of conversation – listening, responding, turn-taking – makes me think that it’s not lack of motivation and interest that’s stopping him making comments, as I had previously thought, but just not knowing how to do it. And maybe, just maybe, this is another way in which Intensive Interaction will help. I can’t wait.