July 2, 2012

Moe Finds His Voice

Moe has a really cute voice. Soft and breathy, it is the sound of the sweet boy that he is. But for a long time, I rarely heard that voice. Moe communicated in whines and cries. He'd shriek and make repetitive sounds for no one's benefit but his own. He sometimes sang, but even that had become less frequent over the past year.

That harsher voice sounded like the Moe we had been living with: aggressive, moody, out of control. I forgot the other voice--the other boy--existed.

And then, a little over a week ago, I was eating chips and he really wanted one. Moe had been getting better with physical imitation and signing, so we had been working with him on signing "I want" then pointing to a desired item, rather than just whining and grabbing. But for some reason, I thought back to my Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) training. I held the chip up and said "chip?" Moe pointed. He grabbed and signed every sign he knew. I held his hands down and said "chip?"

And then Moe said "p."

It was just a "p" sound, but it was clearly an attempt at vocalizing his need. They were really good lime tortilla chips and we did this over and over and over. Again and again, Moe tried to say "chip."

After that, something happened. Moe is now requesting things with his voice very consistently. He still signs sometimes, and his behaviorists always want him to give eye contact even if he speaks, but he will almost always go to his voice first. He consistently says "up," "apple" and "phone." We've also gotten "open," "all done," and "more." Sometimes we get the beginning of a word and sometimes the end, and everything else gets some variation on "ba," the sound he makes most easily.

The words are all about Moe's needs and I can't exactly say Moe is talking. These are all approximations. But he is trying. He spontaneously comes to me and taps me to get my attention, and then makes a sound. I understand when Moe wants something and isn't just unhappy. Moe understands when we are trying to get him to say something. He often can't form the word or sound, but he knows what he is supposed to do.

It is a small step but it feels like a barrier has been broken.


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