The ways that Evan is learning to incorporate language into his life can be startling. All day, every day, Evan “scripts”—that is, he plays little scenes or plays or books or whatever over and over in his head. He stares off into space, just past whoever or whatever is right in front of him; like there is a tv on my shoulder that he is watching instead of looking at my face. Often, this involves him singing songs (in whole or in part) aloud, reciting either phrases or entire books, or quoting movies or shows he has seen.
Our ongoing effort to pull him into the world that is going on around him can seem utterly fruitless. Getting him to use the most seemingly simple expressions or declarations have occupied years of our lives. Just getting him to say basic, functional words, like “hungry” “bathroom” or “headache” has been a daily struggle that often seems, quite frankly, to be going nowhere.
The craziest thing is that he is starting to transform his scripting into the type of functional language we’ve been hoping for. It started with his tantrums. When he gets upset and throws himself on the floor, screaming and yelling, we do as we’ve been trained to do: calmly remind him to use his words. “What’s wrong, Evan? Use your words. Evan, stop yelling and stand up. Are you mad? Does something hurt? Use your words.” (And, in case you’re wondering, we often feel as idiotic as I’m sure we sound every time we recite this).
And now, slowly, he has started using his words. No, not our words, his words. Instead of telling us that he’s mad, he stops screaming momentarily to quote his favorite Christmas special, yelling: “What’s the matter, Frosty?” at the top of his lungs. He then answers himself: “CRYING!”
Then, today, came the next one. At dinner, Evan bit into the taco I had just made for him; the meat was right off of the frying pan. Evan took one bite. Instead of shrieking and yelling over the molten hot meat-and-cheese combination, he opened his mouth, fanned his hand in front of his tongue, and loudly, clearly, quoted the last line of Where The Wild Things Are, announcing “AND IT WAS STILL HOT!” while we all simply stared at him in amazement.
Yes, Evan is using his words, And the books and movies he has been memorizing for the past several years are helping him put into words exactly what he needs to tell us. Like so many of his strides forward, it has come in fits and starts, with awkward progress gained in unexpected ways. But I’ll take it.