Quest for Language 2

The first word “pop” Robert said during the first and the last visit from a speech pathologist from Robert’s school.  She brought with her a lollipop and let Robert lick it only if he said the word “pop”.  Unfortunately, that was her only visit.  The private school, which provided Robert with home program from August of 1995 until August of 1996 had a policy of having, so called, “consultative model”. Under this model, the speech pathologist  made consultation with therapists, gave them suggestions but very rarely worked one on one with a child.  This particular speech pathologist met Robert only once in the  school year 1995/1996.  She obviously knew what to do while providing therapy to the child.  But her effect on Robert’s language under consultative model was mostly disastrous.   That was because after her visit the therapist worked only on this one word “pop”.

Days, weeks and probably months. “POP, POP, POP, POP, POP!!!!

I don’t blame the therapist too much.  If the speech therapist observed Robert regularly – even once a month- she might give new directions or make corrections. But despite my repeated calls to school asking for another session/observation she never came back. (Oh,  how bitter I still am about that! Please, don’t tell me to forget and move on.  We do too much forgetting and moving on already. By  eliminating  our bitter experiences we make sure our knowledge is ignored and errors continue to happen.) The ABA therapist did what she observed during speech pathologist’s visit. She was practicing with Robert almost only this one word: “POP, POP, POP”.  She did that because that was what she was shown; because Robert was successful;because she felt successful as well. The end result, however,  was that Robert couldn’t say anything else.  The more often he repeated the same and only word, the more difficulty he experienced with saying anything else.

There is an obvious question to ask.

Why did I allow this to happen for such a long time?  Well, I didn’t see any other choices for teaching Robert.  At that time I didn’t believe I could teach my son.  The school was (and still is) highly regarded.  And let me add, rightly so.  Moreover, the aura of “specially tailored program for children with autism” was such that any rational thinking was excluded.  The mantra was (and maybe still is) that children with autism learn differently.  And that is the  truth.  Many children with autism learn many things differently than their “typical” peers.  There are no doubts in my mind.  But learning differently doesn’t mean that logic doesn’t apply.