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Getting What He Wants Without Words

The Pookie is almost 17 months old. He has really great receptive language skills. He obviously understands a great deal, and he generally knows what the words are that we are saying to him. His own verbalizing, however, is not as advanced as his receptive skills. He does have quite a few words, but his pronounciation leaves a lot to be desired.

For example, instead of "mama," he says "nahnah." I'll take it, of course, cause at least he's saying something intending to be mama. But he does not pronounce Ms when he should. He also says "ick" instead of "milk," but he accompanies it with the sign for milk, which he does for some other words, too. He's makes specific noises and is learning the signs for cracker, cereal, water, more and all done. Actually, he has the words "all done" down pat.

For many other words or to convey meaning, he indicates with gestures and noises which we try to figure out. He gets frustrated, and that frustration comes out in ways I'm sure you all know. He gets mad and yells, he fusses and whines, and he throws things and has tantrums when thwarted or unable to get what he wants. In other words, he's a toddler with limited verbal skills.

Yesterday morning, the boy was up at 5:00. I tried to get him to go back to sleep, but it was no use. I let him play in his room for a while, but he kept fussing. Finally, at about 6:30 I brought him downstairs to feed the dog and just be somewhere else where he hopefully wouldn't wake up his sister and dad.

He was very happy to be downstairs. He helped me feed the dog and let her out, and then I went to get him milk. In fact, he asked for milk by name, though not sign. "Ick! Ick!" he said, pointing to the fridge. "Yes, yes. I'm getting your milk," I told him.

But when I handed him his sippy cup of milk, he yelled, "NO!" and slammed it down. "But little guy, that's what you asked for," I reminded him. But still, no. He didn't want the sippy cup. I decide to try him with water, which is sometimes what he wants instead of milk. Nope, no water. He again says milk and points to the fridge. I try to hand him his sippy cup, but that's still not what he wants.

He went to the cabinet with the kids' stuff. Oh, have I mentioned that he can totally undo all the baby-proofing on the cabinets? Yeah, that's fun. So he opens the baby-proofed cabinet and takes out a kid spoon. He walks back to the table. I think, well, maybe he's hungry. I try to put him in his highchair, but he freaks out.

Okay, no highchair. That's not new. Lately, he's started climbing in the real chairs around the table and wanting to be there unstead of the highchair. Over the weekend, we pulled out the Pumpkin's old booster seat for him to use at the table, and he's liked that a lot. Which of course means he rarely wants to be in the highchair, although he still sometimes tries to climb in it to indicate that he's hungry.

Even in my half-awake daze, I realize that he seems to want something specific. I start to piece it all together. He got a spoon and wants milk from the fridge. He is by the table but doesn't want to get in his highchair. It's morning and he's been up for quite a while, and he didn't eat much for dinner the night before. I think he must be hungry, and he usually has cereal in the morning. He doesn't usually remember the sign for cereal and I've never heard him say the word cereal, at least in a way I've understood.

So I ask him, "Do you want cereal?" He makes babbles that are not in disagreement. I go to the kids' cabinet and pull out a kid bowl. He looks excited by this development. I put the bowl on the table. I pull out Life and Cheerios and offer both to him. He quickly moves straight for the Life cereal.

I put that and the spoon on the table and help him climb into the booster seat at the table. He picks up the spoon and points to his bowl, making "ooo ooo" noises. I pour in the cereal, and he's obviously happy. He says "ick ick!" and I pour in the milk.

Delighted, he happily starts digging in to his cereal with both spoon and hand, as he does these days. He's sitting where he wants, eating exactly what he wants, eating the way he wants. Oh yes, he's a happy boy now!

Although he can get across what he wants without having the words, it would have been much easier and quicker if he did have the words. Someday, he will. For now, we'll keep trying to figure it out in other ways and teach him more signs.


hush said…
It is so hard when they can't use words yet! Then they learn to talk, and after their 3rd birthday or so some days you wish they didn't! LOL!
Zenmoo said…
I'm intrigued - what is baby signing? Can you refer me to more info?

Aside from that - when my cousins' little boy (who had a speech delay) was 2-ish, he went through a phase of shouting "yay!" and punching the air with excitement when you finally worked out what he wanted. Very, very cute.
ARC said…
I will say that I'm still enjoying the silence from BabyT (13 mo). I'm not a huge talker, so the constant stream of questions is going to require a LOT of patience from me as she gets older.

I love the fact that he eats milk and cereal! Maybe I'll try that with BabyT (and soymilk). I don't know what she'd think of that since she's only ever had dry cereal.
Melba said…
I remember the hugest communication breakthrough with Rosie occurred on the day she learned to nod her head for "yes" and shake her head for "no". Sometimes it took waaaay too many yes/no questions for my patience, but at least I had a hope of figuring out what the heck she wanted or what was wrong. Life immediately improved for both of us. For her because she was finally being understood and could get what she wanted, and for me because she was immediately less fussy and threw less tantrums (Rosie had tantrums starting the day she was born, I swear).

I can't wait for this with Annie. Just tonight she was fussing and crying for a good hour, for who knows why. If only she could have nodded when I asked if her mouth hurt or was she hungry or tired or whatever. If only.
caramama said…
@hush - So true!

@Zenmoo - It's just using sign language with babies. Moxie wrote all about it once here. We have Baby Signing Time DVDs and love them, but I also just look up different signs and use them as needed. Love the story of your cousin's boy!

@ARC - I would never have thought to give him cereal with milk, but they do at his daycare and he apparently loves it. So we started at home, and he definitely prefers it to dry cereal.

@Melba - Isn't that an amazing moment? It might not be words, but indicating yes and no are even more important than words IMO. I'm sure Annie will start letting you know soon.
Cloud said…
Yeah, we're in the point and grunt phase here. Petunia's only 13 months old, so I think we have a while to wait before we get more signs and words. She has a few words ("daddy" being one of her best) and does a sign that means cracker, even though she doesn't do it quite right. But mostly, she points and grunts and uses her words and signs to name things she already has rather than ask for things she wants. I am looking forward to when the little lightbulb goes on in her head and she figures out how to ask for things!

@zenmoo- we're huge fans of Signing Time and baby signing in general here. I swear it saved us tons of tantrums when Pumpkin was little.
mom2boy said…
Signing Time is the way to go. Tate caught on very quickly and probably would have used more than the four words we used regularly if I had used more signs with him.

Milk and cereal, duh mom. :) Happy baby, happy mommy. Great story!

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