Video quotes. This would be how Taylor continued to learn how to talk over the next few years.
At first it was so great. We were starting to communicate with words and sentences, but it was still sporadic and he only talked if he had the appropriate sentence to plug in. Although he was now talking, he spoke mostly in quotes from his videos.
I’ll be honest. After a while I wondered if he would ever use his own words. Was he always going to speak in movie quotes? What would his sentences sound like if he didn’t use the same voice inflections as the characters?
When I tried to get him to repeat sentences after me, it would come out very robotic and monotone, but have him say a quote from a movie and you would hear excitement, or concern or happiness in his voice. Whatever that character felt, you believed that Taylor felt it also when he repeated it. Echolalia is rough sometimes. On one hand he was finally talking, on the other hand it was like listening to a recorder.
I remember when he was a bit older, maybe six or so, and he was wrestling with his Pop. Pop picked Taylor up by his feet and turned him upside down, ready to swing him around. Taylor had about had enough of wrestle time and exclaimed, “I’m not as crazy as you are! PUT ME DOWN!”
His Pop put him down and looked at me with this look of joy.
“Did you hear Taylor?” he laughed, “he told me to put him down. That’s fantastic!”
Have you guessed the movie, yet?
I just smiled a little and said, “Well, that is actually Mowgli from the ‘Jungle Book’.”
Pop, still smiling, looked at me and said, “But he meant it!”
It was a reminder to me that Taylor didn’t just need those videos to help give him his sentences, he also needed them to teach him voice inflections.
I don’t think he hears his voice in tones. Even today at the age of twenty, I have to get him to repeat things that he says with a less harsh tone because most of the things that he says comes out very abruptly. He tries and has been trying for years to soften his voice. He tries to add the question in his sentence or concern if that is what is needed. He is getting better but it is a slow progression. It’s hard to put a specific tone in your voice when you can’t hear it yourself and I really don’t think he can hear it in his own words.
It’s hard for him. Teaching my son about how language works has been a lesson for me as well. If you have never tried to teach someone how to say a sentence with “my” instead of “your”, you have never experienced real, hair pulling frustration.
Here’s an example of a conversation that would go on for way too long before I threw my hands up in exasperation.
me-“Taylor, say ‘I want some milk.’”
Taylor-“You want some milk.”
me-“No, when you say it you are ‘my’ and I am ‘you.’”
me-“Okay,” pointing at his chest, “say, ‘I want to have some milk.’”
Taylor pointing back at my chest, “I want to have some milk.” (as in, me)
me-“No, you are I.”
(screaming in my head. ‘Dear God. Please make this stop!’)
He eventually got it. It was a very long couple of months teaching him that little gem.
Language will always be something that Taylor will have to work on. Being his voice inflections, the appropriate things to say, how to ask someone how they are doing and then LISTENING for their answer…all of it.
He may never learn how to chit chat. If it’s not important to him, he is not going to sit and talk about it. I know that is not very polite but it is what it is. If you know Taylor, you aren’t offended. If you don’t, you will soon catch on.
At the age of 20, those metaphoric library doors in his brain are wide open now. I have conversations with my child. It may be about only the things that interest him, but they are conversations. He talks to me.
He gets frustrated with his brothers and he will tell them so. If he has something important to say, he will say it. Mostly though, he wants to talk about movies, dogs or Godzilla.
That is perfectly okay with me.
I prayed hard for these moments. I prayed without ceasing to have the opportunity to actually say to him, “Oh my gosh Taylor, that’s too much talking.” or “Let’s play the quiet game everybody!”. I am happy to say most times he responds with “Why are we playing the quiet game?” and usually he is the first one to lose. I smile because I know that banter is a privilege to cherish and I see it for the miracle it truly is. Between you and me, I am pretty sure he knows that I don’t ever want him to win the quiet game. Just keep talking Taylor.