"Look At Me"

"Look At Me"
monotype and screenprint

Sunday, March 18, 2012

What Language Do You Speak?

I spent most of Friday morning making doctors appointments.  PT, OT, you know the drill.  One of the appointments was for Tyler--his 6 year well-child check.  We are switching pediatricians, so I had to answer a barrage of questions.  We are switching to a "research hospital" in Omaha, NE called Boystown Pediatrics.  Because it is a research hospital, they asked me questions like what ethnicity my son is.  They also asked me, "What is the primary language spoken in your house."  I was silent a moment, then I quietly answered, "English."

When I hung up the phone, I sat down at the table and realized my hands were shaking.  The first thing that crossed my mind when the lady on the phone asked the question was, "We speak DEREK."  It's not English, it's not Spanish, it's not sign-language...it's a language of love.  For the most part, the only people that can understand "Derek-speak" or "Derek-babble" as we call it, are the people closest to my son--his family, his ABA therapists, and his pre-school teachers.  Sure, more and more of what Derek says is becoming distinguishable.  But a LOT of his words and phrases still sound like gibberish. I don't understand half of what comes out of Derek's mouth.  And the things I DO recognize, I only recognize because I've heard them so many times in context.  I'll give you some examples:

Milk       Gook
Drink     Gink, Unk, or Dink (depends on the day) 
Dragon  Traten
Night-Night   Die-Die
Popcorn     Paco
Water     Wa-er
Tyler      Dido
Mama    Baba
All done  Ada
All better  A bear
Help me  Abby

For some things, Derek doesn't attempt to speak at all.  He just points.  Or he takes my hand and puts it on top of something and tries to communicate that way.  Or if he's being REALLY lazy, when he wants a drink he does this thing where he makes a fishy mouth and kind of smacks his lips together over and over.  Over the years I've come to understand that's his way of telling me he's thirsty.  I always tell him, "Use your words Derek.  What do you want?  A drink?"  I won't get him one unless he says it. 

Derek has been speaking more and more.  This past year has been incredible.  All of those words/phrases above are new.  He was completely non-verbal for the first 2-2.5 years of his life.  He didn't really start trying to communicate with his voice until he was 3.  We tried PECS and sign language, but Derek had no interest in either.  He used them only for a brief time, to get something he needed--like milk, or "more" of something.  Once he figured out that he could get something easily by speaking, he started trying to get the words out.  It was one of the many miracles I've witnessed. 

So, what language do YOU speak?  In this house, we speak Derek.  (Tyler understands him better than anyone.  It's like the two of them have their own private language.)  It is the BEST language, because it is a language of patience.  When people speak different languages, they find OTHER ways to communicate.  They use gestures.  They hug more.  They laugh more.  They smile.  They touch.  Our language is a language of LOVE and understanding.  I've said it once, and I'll say it a million times more:  LOVE DOES NOT NEED WORDS. 

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