Thursday, October 7, 2010


Lately I've been thinking a lot about communication.  I'm participating in a fluency clinic over at BU for the semester.  If you're reading this blog chances are you've known me for some time and you know that I stutter.  I always have - as far back as I can remember talking.  I've done a bunch of things therapy-wise over my life: speech therapy through public school, a private therapist, and an intensive program as an adult.  Each experience has helped me in some way, but as a 35-year old adult, I still sometimes struggle to say what I want to say.  Now that's not to say I don't talk - because I do - a lot - probably too much.  Sometimes I wonder how much MORE trouble my mouth would cause me if it didn't occasionally just refuse to work.  I strike up conversations at the park, I present at work, I'm a member of a few volunteer boards, I make phone calls to lawyers and doctors and contractors and whoever else I may need to speak to.  So I wouldn't say that my disfluency holds me back in any real way - but sometimes it is still a bit of a burden.

I read to the kids quite a bit - at least once every day and more when I'm home with them all day.  Lily loves having stories read to her and is getting into longer ones.  I'd love to start reading her chapter books, but I'm afraid it would be difficult.  I tend to stutter most when I read.  Lily is really patient about it and has never said a word to me or asked me not to read to her.  Sometimes she finishes a sentence for me, but I love that because it shows that she is remembering the stories and maybe picking up some of the words on the page.   Quinn seems less patient, but that may just be him in general.  He often brings me books, sits down to listen and then halfway through closes the book and hands me a new one.  I have no idea if that is commentary on my reading skills or just a short attention span!  So my big goal for this program is to be able to read out loud a little easier to my kids.  I'm planning to buy some chapter books for Lily for the holidays and I'd like to be able to start reading them to her.

Anyway, I've been to three session so far and it's been - well a lot of things.  There's an individual therapy component and a group session as well.  In the group we've been talking about communication and how there's so much more to it than just the actual words that you're saying.  Facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice all carry the bulk of the message.  We haven't even gotten to the meat of the therapy yet and I'm already finding it fascinating to really think about how I communicate.  It's been fun observing others communication and noticing what works and what doesn't.  I like doing the observations because I think it could make me a better listener.  For someone who doesn't really enjoy the sound of my own voice that much I sure flap my gums a lot!

Now here's where I awkwardly segue into funny stories about the kids.  Because you know who are GREAT communicators?  Toddlers.  They can get so much across with only a handful of words in their vocabulary.   Quinn's word count has shot up since I last posted about it.  So instead of giving you another boring list of words I'll present some examples of exemplary communication by my 17-month old.

  • A couple of weeks ago I put Q down for a nap with only his diaper and a shirt - no pants.   After a few hours he woke up and cried out once, but then seemed to settle back down.  Twenty minutes later I heard him talking to himself so I figured it was time to go in.  I walked in the room and found him laying on his stomach, bare butt in the air and diaper floating around the crib.  He looked up at me, pointed to a dark shape in the corner of the crib and said: "Poo Poo, Poo, Poo".  Score: A, uses appropriate gestures and succinct direct language to make his point
  • He has learned the word "No" and uses it to convey a whole slew of things.   When placed in his chair and given food he doesn't want to eat he lets out a stream of "No! No! No! No! No!" often punctuated by a throwing gesture for emphasis.  If you ask him for something that he does not intend to give up he holds the object close to himself, turns his body away from  you and utters a stream of defensive, and slightly pathetic-sounding "No No No No Noooooo".  Sometimes he uses No just to shake things up and be contrary for the fun of it.  I might say "Quinn would you like to ?"  and he'll look at me and say "Noooo", but then do it anyway.  Score: B+ great use of tone and inflection to convey information, points taken away for the whole sarcasm bit.
  • He's all over the sign language thing lately pulling out the sign for "more" whenever possible.  It's particularly fun when he uses it before he's even gotten anything.  For example, if he thinks I might be walking over to the stereo to put music on he'll start frantically signing more (and saying "more more more more") to indicate that not only does he want music, but he wants MORE MUSIC NOW.  Score: B, reads the other party accurately, but jumps the gun a little.
  • My favorite recent sign language incident was at dinner last night.  Gordon had cooked up some tuna and placed it on the table.  It was unrecognizable as a fish - cut into slices, chunks etc (but very yummy).  The minute Quinn got in his chair he looked at the pieces of tuna, made the sign for fish and then started with "me me me me me me".  I'm still not really sure how he connected the tuna with the happy pictures of fish that he sees in books and the like.  Score:  A, just for being smart and cute AT THE SAME TIME.  Also the sign he uses for fish is a a fish face and it looks like he's trying to give kisses.  ADORABLE.

OK that's all I've got.  In summary: I'm going to speech school, Quinn is still very cute and talky and Lily is probably a better communicator these days than any of us.

No comments: