When the assessors told me that Joey’s comprehension of speech is at a twelve-month level, I wasn’t sold. The speech therapist at the Regional center explained that it seems as though he can understand more of what’s happening at home because he knows our routines. But it seemed perfectly possible that he just hadn’t chosen to communicate his understanding at the assessment. So Thursday and Friday, I tried talking to Joey without signs, gestures, or props: and he can’t understand what I’m saying. If I sign as I say “Are you hungry?” then he will say “Okay!” or run to the kitchen or both. If I just ask, “Are you hungry?” he doesn’t know what’s going on. I spent two days saying everything without visual hints, waiting, and then repeating myself and adding signs and so forth.
They were right. I was wrong.
I can’t wait until our Signing Time dvds get here; even if Joey doesn’t choose to sign, if Kit and I can start signing to him, that clearly helps him to know what we’re talking about. I’ve been looking into ways to learn more ASL (in some ways, it makes more sense for me to try to learn EES, or Exact English Signing, but ASL is a cooler and more widely used language, so I’d rather use that) in a structured way. I can keep adding single signs via the internet, but I’m not going to get a real grasp of grammar or syntax that way. And I know that it would be best if I could learn directly from a D/deaf person. Right now, I’m thinking about asking my parents for an ASL class for my birthday—but that’s, what, like six months away. But in the meantime, I’m going to look for more dvds and ask for book recommendations. The only other person I’ve really talked to who has a young autistic son has decided not to sign with him—and he doesn’t talk. I’m in favor of sign based on a recommendation from the first speech therapist and what I know about sign and D/deaf kids (which turned out to be much more controversial than I would have guessed). I want Joey to learn a language, and any language will make it easier for him to learn other languages. He has been losing words for more than six months now, and his useful vocabulary is down to something like twenty words now (he can also name things that he is seeing in Blue’s Clues). If he can sign, then by all means, let’s sign.