Speaking in scripts with a story in her eyes
Thanks to funding from Small Steps, I have Ashlynn back in therapy with her private SLP, who is also my mentor and now friend. The other night she was updating me on her progress and what happened in the session. I take my daughter to her house, so occasionally her husband or dogs may walk by and apparently distract Ashlynn. She was remarking on Ashlynn’s ability to hold a pretty good conversation. After she went through a communication exchange Ashlynn had with her husband, I commented that everything Ashlynn said was a script she had been taught. To a new communication partner, she sounds very adept, but to those who know her, the script rarely changes.
I went onto say, that though Ashlynn speaks in sentences now, her speech is still predominantly in scripts because crippling word finding deficits and motor planning continue to impede her ability to effectively offer up new and novel information.
I wrote the other day that I wanted a professional to know Ashlynn like I do, and I know my mentor is the one. I know because she said this,
“Yes, it is remarkable really, and not something I think many people, including other SLP’s would understand had they not witnessed her development themselves. To think Ashynn has been taught everything she says is almost unbelievable even to me.”
Yes! Yes! She gets it!! She sees how remarkable Ashlynn is!! Ashlynn does put some novel things together, but they are usually already scripted phrases she has learned and then she may combine them with another scripted phrase.
SLP’s usually talk about a “language explosion” that most kids have. Some kids have it late, thus needing speech, but most all will usually experience it. I remarked that Ashlynn has never had a language explosion. Never. Everything she has said she has worked for.
I responded that Ashlynn has always learned, from a young age, to grab onto the scripts that would get her the most bang for her buck socially. By 1 her first word was “hi” and she could use it to grab anyone’s attention. By 3 I taught her to say “watcha doin?” which has since been refined but to which she still uses and has actually overgeneralized now to the point that she gets stuck on it and will say it over and over just to keep up the conversation. In her last year of preschool, the social worker really worked with her to move from parallel play into interactive play by teaching her to say “you want to play with me?” and “do you want to be my friend?” Once Ashlynn picked this up she was off and running and uses it now frequently in a variety of settings.
My mentor went onto say that she had asked her about a recent camping trip we had just come back from. When she mentioned camping, she said Ashlynn’s eyes lit up and danced. She said she wished she could have been able to get inside her head because though she could see Ashlynn’s eyes dance with stories, Ashlynn took a lot of time before settling on “I ride my bike.”
“Another script,” I said.
That’s when the SLP said, “Well, and doesn’t that speak to her cognitive ability? Being able to pull out and get the scripts that get her the most bang for buck and her ability to look like an effective communicator to a new partner despite only having access to pre-existing scripts in her motor plan….that is really quite remarkable.”
I smiled. Yes! Finally! Yes it IS remarkable. It DOES speak to her cognitive ability but also her amazing resilience, ingenuity, and motivation.
One day I know her word finding difficulties will improve as well. We work on naming and word recall daily. However on days when she was with her grandma, she will still call me “grandma….mommy” and on days she has been with me she will call her grandma “mommy…grandma.” She is learning to self-monitor and that is good, though that also speaks to the cognitive ability you MUST have to do these tasks. Can you imagine?
First she has to conceptualize the thought, then she has to have the speech motor plan for it but also the word finding. If she wants to speak on auto-pilot (like we all do taking it for granted), she runs the risk of saying the wrong thing, like calling me grandma even though she knows I’m mommy……or saying it incorrectly (speech sound production), so then she has to monitor her speech and then correct it, but remember, correcting mean having to plan, program, and then re-try accurate execution of what you wanted to say.
How exhausting is that? Is it no wonder our kids get frustrated? Tired? Discouraged? It’s no wonder to me; however, what is even more of a wonder to me is Ashlynn never gets frustrated or discouraged. She’ll laugh. She’ll try again. She NEVER gives up. She is insanely motivated, and for that, I am thankful. So thankful. I pray she never loses that. I pray she will be the communicator she desires to be, the friend she desires to be, and whatever person she desires to be. I pray I’m doing enough, but for now, I’ll just say a prayer of thanks for the hope that another professional finally sees a glimmer of what I see.