Language is Amazing — 5 Minutes for Special Needs


For the most part the child’s language seems pretty typical now, but every once in a while something pops up that just highlights how differently she processes words.

The exchange yesterday between the child (age 7) and her little sister (age 3) went something like this…

7 yo: “You Dare!”

3 yo: “I’m not a Dare, I’m a girl.”

7 yo: “No, you’re a Dare…Dare, Dare, Dare.”

3 yo: “I’m not a Dare, I’m a girl!”

7 yo: “Don’t, you Dare, talk to me.”

It took me a minute to figure out what this was all about. I’m sure the child has heard me say it before hundreds of times, “Don’t you dare… [look at me like that, throw that, get up, run in this place, etc.]” But somehow, her brain has interpreted dare not as a verb, but as a noun – a name to call someone when they are doing something you don’t like.

It is better than many other names she might have picked up from the playground or over at a friend’s house, so there is a piece of me that hates to even try to correct this. There is another piece of me that was highly amused – how funny that they were both grappling with language in their own way in the midst of grappling with each other, too. Then there’s another piece that sighs…so many nuances of language and social construct that we have yet to slide into their correct places. Too many to count, and I’m sure we’ll miss quite a few along the way. There is yet another piece that recalls the child 5 years ago who had so few words, the child three years ago who spoke in echolalia most of the time, and I am amazed, really, that any of us learn to communicate through this system of senses, and sounds, and semantics.

Language is a miracle, one that I might not have recognized without watching the torturous path of its development in my child. Bittersweet, isn’t it?

Email Author    |    Website About Kimberly

Kimberly is the mother of three wonderful children: an eight-year-old who is somewhere on the autism spectrum, and twin four-year-olds who are just very busy little people. We live on routine with a side of novelty.

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1 staying afloat May 25, 2011 at 9:37 pm

I know what you mean. Watching my toddler’s language develop now that I’ve dealt with teaching and helping E. is completely different than when my first two developed quite naturally.

My E. started talking in either single words or full sentences lifted out of books and videos. He noticed purple flowers once, and said “Wendy waters purple flowers!” (from his Bob the Builder colors book) in order to tell me what he saw. My toddler, on the other hand, will point (point!) and say, “Look! It’s flowers there!” So I know she made the sentence up herself.

2 KDL May 26, 2011 at 12:47 am

Yep! It just gives you a whole new appreciation for how it all works. Thanks for commenting!

3 Laurie Wallin May 26, 2011 at 1:36 am

What a tender moment in the middle of the sibling fighting. In a bittersweet way, those interactions between developmental peers is so precious. My 9 year old and 5 year old get along like that. Most of the time it’s my 5 year old typically developing daughter helping along her 9 year old sis as they both learn a new skill like tying shoelaces. Such a sweet connection for them. But it makes my heart sad for the reality of what life will be like for my older girl through time. Do you feel like that too?

4 KDL May 26, 2011 at 2:19 am

Yes. My 7 yo and 3 yo have very similar voices, similar voice modulation skills (loud), and similar grammar and syntax. If they’re both sitting on the couch looking away from me and one of them says something to me I sometimes can’t figure out which of them is talking. I think my 7 yo is slightly ahead just in terms of vocabulary and experience, but only just. I’m wondering how it will feel when my twins surpass their sister in whatever skills…So far they push her along in front, but someday…

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