But not today. Today, I'm going to talk once again about how awesome our little man is. Because he is awesome.
In order to fully understand why today's events were so awesome, I think I need to give some background info. Awhile ago, I wrote one of those 'ripping open my chest' posts about Elijah's difficulty communicating and my frustration. And at the end of the post I mentioned a short seminar I went to given by Teri Kaminski-Peterson, author of The Big Book of Exclamations. She talked a lot about the pre-symbolic stage of development and a lot of the stuff she said has stuck with me. In my own way and the best I know how, I've been trying to teach Elijah some of the things I learned that night.
You see, words (and gestures) are symbols...they are a representation of something else. Before we start to talk when we're wee ones (yep, I just said wee ones), we have all sorts of precursors to speech that need to occur first. To my delight, Elijah has a lot of the precursors to speech. For example, he has some reciprocal interaction. If you tickle him, he might laugh, run away, and then come back for more. In his own way, he's asking for you to tickle him again, reciprocating. Sometimes, he will imitate you (another precursor to speech). That night I listened to Ms. Kaminski-Peterson's talk, I realized that the ares of communication Elijah struggles with the most are directly related to his vision.
One thing babies do before they ever utter a word is to direct your attention to something. Babies will see something they want, get your attention perhaps by babbling, and then they will point at the thing they want. They direct you towards their desired object. I wondered how Elijah would be able do that. How can he direct our attention to something if he can't even see it?
I started thinking of ways to teach him how to direct me. He loves his Elmo toy and we put it on the counter out of his reach. He'd whine for his toy, I'd grab his hand, walk him over to where I was standing and model what I wanted him to do. I'd take his hands and pretend to have him pull on my pant leg while saying, "Mama mama." And then I'd respond to myself "What do you want Elijah?"while grabbing his hand. I'd walk him over to Elmo, placing Elijah's hands on the counter. "Oh, you want Elmo! I can turn him on for you." And repeat this scenario over and over and over. Yes, it's kind of awkward having a conversation with myself, but I was teaching him how he could direct my attention.
Are you still with me? We're getting to the good part.
Lately, Elijah has been reaching up to Andy and me to be picked up. It's the sweetest thing ever. He never used to do that and we've been enjoying the hugs he gives. Today, Elijah was reaching on my leg. I was about to pick him up when and a light bulb went off. This is what I've been trying to teach him. Maybe he doesn't want to be picked up, maybe he's trying to tell me something. So I grabbed his little hand and asked him, "What do you want Elijah?" To my surprise, he started to walk through our kitchen. "Where are we going Elijah?" Elijah walked me into our family room and laid down on the floor. Can you hear the shouts of joy and amazement?! No? Well, we change Elijah's diaper in our family room. He wanted to have his dirty diaper changed! He communicated his desire to have his diaper changed. Um, if you're not with me yet, that's HUGE for a multitude of reasons. He knew that he needed a diaper change for one thing (which is kind of important for potty training) and he told me about it by getting me and bringing me to where he gets changed. He directed my attention to a need of his. Now do you hear the shouts of joy?
And later, Elijah directed my attention to Elmo by clawing at my leg and walking me to his toy. Two times in one day; it's not a fluke. He's getting it. And yes, he is awesome. Not that you didn't already know that.