Lady Bug was talking precociously at 14 months. Sometime around her 2nd birthday, she stopped talking. For a few months the only indicators of what she was thinking and feeling was what Little Einstein song’s melody she was singing. Eventually she started saying lines from Little Einstein to herself, sometimes repeating the lines over and over, sometimes going through multiple lines in an awe-inspiring length for one so young. This is what I am usually referring to when I mention her “scripting;” communication or happy-stimming with the memorized lines from shows.
Thanks to Lady Bug being my third child to love Little Einsteins, I pretty much have them memorized. Sing just the melody of a song and I can probably tell you the words to the song and the plot of the episode. So because I had that knowledge, I was able to infer meaning, and interpret what she was thinking. I spoke Lady Bug. In the early days she was hard to reach, to gain her attention, unless she specifically wanted something. But when she was scripting along and I broke in with the next line her face would light up and she would look at me with a look of pure joy. Sometimes we would go back and forth with several lines and it was magical. I truly believe that those moments convinced Lady Bug that we were worth the effort of interacting with. Slowly she withdrew inwardly less and engaged with us more. Not overnight-it’s been two years and scripting is still the main source of communication for Lady Bug. Now it’s not just memorized lines from Little Einsteins, but also from other sources, and even a few from me.
Her face still lights up when I echo her or sing the same song as her. Sometimes she comes to us and says, “Okay, a baby!” (She says “okay” before a noun as questions because that’s how she wants us to respond.) This means to pick her up in our arms and rock her like a baby. If I’m doing it then I’m also supposed to say, “Daughter: sign girl, then rock your baby. [Lady Bug] is my baby; [Lady Bug] is my daughter.” The first part of that is how Rachel from Signing Time teaches the sign for daughter. The second part I added. This makes her feel loved and happy, and I am happy to drop everything and do it as requested. At least the first two times. After that, if I’m in the middle of cooking dinner or something unpauseable, then I call Builder Boy. She actually asked him to do it over and over one evening, and she now accepts him picking her up as “baby.”
Instead of fighting the scripting, I’m working with it. I’m using simple sentences and what I learned from Pinterest are called “carrier sentences” or phrases to try to teach her more, adjustable sentences. (Pinterest board with carrier sentences and other early reading sentences can be found here.) Sometimes she uses them. Lots of times she doesn’t. We respond to her whether she’s communicating verbally or non-verbally. Sometimes she says lots of things. Some days she only scripts to herself. Right now she’s in a less communicative phase; but that doesn’t mean she’s silent! A post for another time: verbal stimming and testing the acoustics of different buildings with high pitched tones….