Monday, November 20, 2006

more than words

So the thing with Cal is that he still isn't talking yet. No words at all, not even "Mama" or "Dada," which don't even count as first words, according to the Denver. Now, I know that by posting about this, I am opening myself up to a huge influx of well-intentioned but alarmist e-mails from people telling me YOUR SON IS AUTISTIC, but let me try to head this off at the pass by reminding everyone that I was a Pediatrics resident for two years before this current gig, and have done many, many developmental assessments in my day. So: not autistic. Not.


Cal's just not a big words man. His preferred mode of communication seems so far to be pointing at stuff and grunting. Other gems of his communicative repertoire include reaching out and opening and closing his hands to indicate that he wants something, clapping after he does something particularly satisfying (flushing the toilet, for instance), and occasionally waving hello or goodbye.

I'm pretty satisfied that he hears fairly well. He hears me opening the front door when I get home, even when he's in the other room, and he can obey most commands pretty readily, and I've been trying not to gesture too much when talking to him to make sure that he really understands the words, not just my eloquent hand-waving. (DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE WORDS THAT ARE COMING OUT OF MY MOUTH?) Also, he babbles quite a bit, and in the babbling, he makes all the phonemes that would be necessary to form pretty much any word that he would ever need to use at this point. He just doesn't put the sounds in the right order, or to mean anything in specific. Including Mama or Dada. I mean, he'll say "Mama" and "Dada," but it's just random.

(This one's for the working-mom-guilties out there: Yes, our nanny talks to him. I mean, I can't prove that they're parsing sentences and reading the dictionary when I'm not there, but I've been in the background quite a bit when they're together, and she is very good and unselfconscious about prattling on to him pretty much all day. This is in response to my own mom, who "helpfully" "reminded" me that you actually have to TALK to children in order for them to LEARN how to talk. Thanks there, Benjamin Spock.)

He's meeting all his milestones otherwise, so I'd be satisfied with waiting another two months (he's turning 16 months on Wednesday) before freaking out and getting him evaluated. After all, he's probably just in more a physical development stage right now (Exhibit A: climbing up on the couch to turn on the stereo, Exhibit B: climbing up on the windowsill to give me a stroke). The problem is that I think that this inability to communicate very precisely is making him very frustrated. He'll point at something and I have to go through every item in that general direction to see what he wants. ("You want...your sippy cup? This pretzel? You want to go outside? You want this toy car? You want to play with this water bottle?") This has been leading to more unintelligible screeching and dramatic displays of despondency--his new thing when I take something potentially messy and/or dangerous away from him is lowering himself onto the floor, pressing his face into the woodwork and weeping, like, "Oh cruel fate! My mother has taken away my ice pick and now I am left with NOTHING." So I think he will maybe be less frustrated if he can actually communicate with us a little better. Or maybe not. But either way, at least he'll be talking.

He's not a big repeater, by the way. He just doesn't want to repeat what you say is all. Like he'll come up to me, arms outstretched and hands opening and closing, indicating that he wants to be picked up.

You want to come up?

(Hands grabbing)

Yeah, I'm going to pick you up! Say "up!"

(Hands opening and closing faster)

Say "up" so mommy knows to pick you up!

(Getting mad)

Say "up!"

(Very mad)

(Picking Cal up)
OK, you're coming up. See, I picked you up! Uuuuu-pppp!


Oh, and one more thing that I know I'm going to get asked: We are not a bilingual household. (You know how kids who are exposed to two different languages from birth start talking a little bit later? Well, while I would love for him to be bilingual, Cal's mostly been spoken to in English. I mean, my parents speak to him in Chinese mostly, but he sees them only once or twice a month, and for a few hours at a time, so I doubt that has made some tremendous impact.) He's just not into talking at this moment. I know that if he gets to 18 months and still doesn't have any words, we should get him formally evaluated, but until then, I'm going to try not to sweat it. Though I will mention it to our Pediatrician the next time I see him.

Funny thing about our next Peds appointment, by the way. I couldn't get in with our regular Pediatrician for one of my days off, so instead, the receptionist asked if I would be OK seeing one of the other doctors in the office. I said that would be fine. So I got an appointment with Dr. H., one of the "new attendings," who as it turns out was one of my former co-residents from the Pediatrics department. Cool, I have an inside edge! Maybe she'll throw in a couple of extra vaccines for free or something.

* * *

Oh, and I know I owe you the monkey suit pictures, but believe me when I tell you that even I haven't seen them yet. I was going to download them just now, but they're on the little camera (as opposed to the big camera) and Joe has the transfer cable for the SD card hidden away in some secret corner of his desk. So I'll have to wait for him to get home before the pictures can be liberated. I know how to do it myself, of course, I just need his help to find the cable. I know computers. I use The Google.

Currently playing at: "Aha! Learning Center." It's like Gymboree but BETTER, because more toys including MOON BOUNCE and MANY TRUCKS and a PRETEND KITCHEN and you can drop by ANYTIME for open play and stay as long as you like, not just for a crappy 45-minute period in the middle of the day that inevitably falls during naptime. The one bad thing is that it's kind of far away, but Cal likes taking the subway, and my puny girl arms have gotten stronger lugging him and his stroller up and down the steps, so it's win-win.