The Savage of Aveyron

Yesterday we were at the library and I saw a book about Victor, the so called Savage of Aveyron. I read it while the baby slept and the story reminded me a lot of my brother with high functioning autism. It got me reading about the Genie case and thinking back to my college days studying linguistics, and how at that time the focus was a lot on second language acquisition and the immigration wave. And because I had missed TESOL, I didn’t pursue it. Applied linguistics didn’t interest me as much as cognitive linguistics.

But these days with the autism epidemic, maybe there is more for me in the field. We are so reliant on language as an indicator of what goes on inside our children’s heads. I’ve watched as my children have gone through school and have defied classification. My oldest was a late talker but became a stellar student. My second was an early talker but has run into some serious problems having to do with social function, somewhat with peers but even more with authority. Hekka has redefined my whole relationship with the brain and was diagnosed with PDD-NOS and ADHDI. And now my youngest has been diagnosed with high functioning autism and is in early intervention. He seems to be the least inclined to speak of any of my children. Though it’s hard to know for sure. The home videos suggest that. But he does seem curious and social and the developmentalist said he shows good concentration.

I guess the plan is to provide him a warm and varied environment and see if things pick up around 30 months, when abstract thought actually kicks in according to the Brain Rules guy. Up until then, children speak imitatively. To my mind, it is like the language some apes have demonstrated acquiring. We have encouraged signing (we have the videos and use baby signs with him) but he doesn’t use them either. The thing about signing, and what the psychiatrist who evaluated him recommended, is you can make a toddler sign.

Something that occurred to me last week is that my oldest sang before she could talk. She also had some rhymes she could repeat, but her natural language was a concern and when she played she would jibber jabber to herself.

But then it might be me. Hekka gave me one of those mother’s day cards where they fill in the blanks about you. And the card said “My mom always says_____” “Nothing”.

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