Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What Are You Trying to Tell Me?

Every child has times when they are obviously trying to communicate something, but they just aren't quite successful.  Maybe they're on the verge of learning some new vocabulary, or maybe they are over or under generalizing. Whatever the reason, this can be a frustrating time for everyone involved.

Typically, I suggest parents make one or two educated guesses about what their child is trying to communicate. "I see you signing something.  Are you asking Mommy to hand you your train?"  Sometimes just the act of successful communication is satisfying enough that, even if the original target was something different, your child will take what you offer and happily start to play with it.  Other times, the resolution might not be so easy.  Instead of struggling and becoming increasingly frustrated, I suggest that if the first and second guesses don't seem to be right be honest with your child.  "I know you're trying to tell me something, but I'm not sure what it is.  Can you use a different word to tell me about it?"  Sometimes, the situation will remain unresolved, and you might have to fall back on some of your favorite distraction or re-direction techniques.

A funny example of this has been playing out in my own home recently.  For two or three weeks, Mr. L. would sign what looked like HAT.  It would happen almost every day and consistently showed up when he was sitting in his high chair at meal time.  We considered that he really did mean HAT, though it seemed unlikely.  His big brother would even bring him one to wear.  Not surprisingly, as soon as we put the hat on his head, Mr. L. would rip it off and throw it on the floor.  (He's not much for head wear.)  We thought maybe he was trying to tell us he was tired and ready for a NAP. Our experiments with this one met similar negative results.  After several weeks of scratching our heads, it became apparent that he was telling us ALL DONE - and the world made sense once again!

What signs has your little one used that meant something much different than it first appeared?

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