During our family dinner last night Charlie initiated a little exchange with Ray. It was a conglomeration of half sign language and half spoken words. He was pointing, smiling, and seemed very pleased with his idea, if only mom and dad would catch on.
"Milk? You want more milk?" Ray asked and moved his cup closer.
"No," Charlie said.
The gestures and words continued. Charlie was pointing to the milk carton, which we keep on the table at dinner. (We add just tablespoons of milk at a time to his cup, which usually gets knocked over on accident, or dumped on his shirt if he miss-aims for his mouth, a couple times during the meal.)
By then we had figured out that he was saying milk. "Ilk, ilk, ilk!" he would say, and then he would point his hand down toward the table, elbow up in the air.
"You want more milk in your glass?"
Charlie nodded his head emphatically. Ray and I just looked at each other and shrugged. I almost felt as if I should add a point to a charades score card for Ray.
Communicating in this household feels a lot like charades. Both Charlie and Calvin are at about the same level when it comes to verbal communication--Charlie being behind developmentally, and Calvin a little ahead of schedule. Both boys use sign language extensively, and I estimate each of them know and use well over 100 signs. Add to that mommy and daddy who tend to use sign language a lot to communicate what we don't want the boys to hear, or trying to politely communicate to each other during quiet meetings if one of the boys needs attending to.
Come to think of it, I can't remember the last time I played charades with out slipping in to using sign language!
For the boys communication is a little bit of gesture and signs, a little bit of verbal communication, a lot of guesses. Sounds like... First word, first syllable... And finally, "Ohhhhhh, you want to play outside," or "Oh! You want help putting the back-pack on!" Understanding feels like an accomplishment.
I think Charlie's greatest improvement in communication over the last few months is his willingness to stick to it until mom and dad get it. He is really quite patient with us. After all, to him it is obvious what he is trying to say!