December 02, 2011

Say What??

One of the sweetest conversations I have with my older three children is telling them what Bridger would say to them if he could speak. We talk about how after we leave this life, and are reunited as a family in perfect wholeness and form, all those things that Bridger will tell them about what he was really thinking -- what he wished he could say to Lance during all their cuddling watching tv (Lance sweetly tolerates countless episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba), what he would tell Evie of the things he was thinking as she reads to him in bed (patiently enduring the hair pulling and kicking Bridger does because he is so excited), all the fun words he would say to Sadie to describe the fun he has dancing with her until they are both lathered in sweat, and his mischievous thoughts going through his mind as he delights in chasing a screaming Eliza around in his wheelchair trying to make road kill of her. Thinking of that future moment takes the sting out of the every day non-verbal, non-ambulatory life.

A sweet smilestone is upon the horizon, however. Bridger now can say about 10-15 words. Of course, they are words that only myself, Alan or the other kids can understand. But they are words nonetheless that Bridger knows he is saying. In order of frequency:

- Mom
- Ipad
- Apple (also referring to the ipad)
- Dad
- Evie
- No!
- "I DO!" (when I ask the kids, "who wants to [insert anything]?" Bridger will always respond. If I ask who wants to eat broccoli for breakfast? - as long as I ask it enthusiastically, Bridger raises his hand and shouts, "I DO!")
- More
- Cup
- Book
- Car
- Amen (after every prayer:)
- Up (when he gets on the wheelchair lift of his school bus to tell them which way to go)
- Alta (his friend)
- and a few initial syllables of teachers/friends names

Even more amazing, he is putting together several words to form sentences with his augmentative communication device. He read me a complete little story about Winnie the Pooh using his corresponding icons on his device. This thing is no small task to figure out. The icons and selections are constantly changing as you further embed yourself into categories. i.e. when Bridger presses the chair symbol, all his seating options appear, or the eat icon will then change the top two rows for his food choices. It is fantastic to watch him figure out language. Now that we have taught him the 20 key verbs and nouns - it is time to teach him the power of a pronoun. Before he could say "eat pancake". But to tell someone "YOU eat pancake" has a motivating commanding power that he can make someone do something with his words. The speech therapist was trying to teach the concept of "I" to Bridger and modeled on his device, "I" "sit" "chair" and she sat down. Bridger looked at her, as if to say "move over small potatoes" and said on his device, "I" "sit" "chair" "play" "playdoh" and pointed to the playdoh on the shelf. Her jaw dropped.

I know there are times when we wish our children would stop talking and allow our brains a much needed moment of silent respite. I am grateful for every sound, the miracle of consonants, the miracle of facial expressions, the miracle of Bridger. We have a long way to go to teach Bridger functional communication basics that will allow him to share what is really going on inside his cute head, until then, I am grateful to the 1600 facial expressions that God gave him to make up for his lack of communication that clearly let me know what he is thinking.

We just got his school picture back. You tell me, can you tell what he is thinking here?