On Language: Functional or… NOT?

1. Robert tries to order his sandwich in the Subway Restaurant.  He has his IPAD already turned to App called Speak It.  He is supposed to wait for his turn and then push the correct button.  The IPAD voice would order what Robert wants: 12 inch Italian bread with cheese and pepperoni, toasted.  Robert is anxious and pushes the button too soon, just  as a woman in front of him gives instruction about condiments on  her sandwich .   Robert seems confused  and touches the screen again.  The message disappears.  It is Robert’s turn and IPAD is of no use.  Robert has to use his own voice. His pronunciation is so unclear that again and again he is not understood. He tries over and over.  It is such a torture.  I don’t help him, but I feel terrible. In every Subway Restaurant Robert orders the same things, and yet no matter how many times we practice at home the same phrases, when he needs to order he speaks too fast squeezing some sounds, shortening them, or dropping them all together.  It is painful for me to witness that but it must be much more stressful for Robert.  And yet that happens at least once a week with either my husband or me.

I do think that we are doing something wrong there.  I think that we are stressing Robert too much and his pronunciation is even worse than before.  I strongly believe that he pronounced words better a few years ago than he does now.   Yet, he has to learn to rely on himself, he has to learn to use language in a functional way.  But it is very painful  to watch. He is so determined to order his food, he puts so much effort, he is so patient.  He tries, he struggles, he fails, and then he tries again.    Those are the moments when I realize how lonely he is and how lonely he will be in the future.

2. Robert works on completing analogies.  In a folder,  made from the pages of Take It to Your Seat workbook, there are two sets of analogies.  Each set has 12 cards with first three words of each analogy and 12 cards with the  words completing each comparison. The first set is easy for Robert. He rarely makes more than 2 mistakes.  The second set is harder. Robert matches correctly  less than half of the pairs. For instance, he doesn’t know who zoologist or botanist are and how they relate to animals and plants. He knows that telescope is used in Astronomy but not that microscope is a tool for Biology. He doesn’t know what Biology is.  Although we spent some time in the past learning about human body and he was exposed to adjectives “circulatory” and “respiratory”  he is still  not sure how they relate to “heart” and “lungs”.  It is not a functional knowledge.  Well, not a functional knowledge for him.  He will never take SAT test. He won’t become a doctor or a nurse.   I know this is not a functional language for Robert for many reasons but mainly for this one:  Nobody expects him now or would expect him in the future to show familiarity with any of the words required to complete any of the analogies.   So why do I feel the compulsion to expose Robert to the vocabulary that seems beyond his ability to ever apply it in his daily activity?

Because I feel the words are tools for thinking, for understanding, for adjusting.  The words help organize Robert’s environment.  They make him a part of the world.

Finally, it is easier to teach Robert that “frog to amphibian is like snake to  reptile”  than to teach him how to order a sandwich from the Subway Restaurant.