Language Acquisition

In 1996 I got a bachelor’s degree in Linguistics.  I guess I picked it because it seemed to be really hard for many people while I took to it like a duck to water.  Here are some of my observations on the progress of my youngest, Cedar, who was diagnosed in May of 2013.

I went through this before but can’t find the memo book I used.  Cedar tended to be about 3 months late.  I did note him cruising at 11 months and he was crawling by then.  I have him sitting unassisted at 7.  Still looking for walking.  There were words he said at various times, but then he stops. [including “it’s okay” when I picked him up in the middle of the night around 10 months old].  standing at 14 months.  Walking at 16 months.  [These notes were relative to diagnostic meetings, which started with the pediatrician around 18 months, with Cedar not pointing.]

Cedar seems to be counting, which is super cute. He doesn’t really talk, but he started chattering (it’s like babbling but sounds purposive and has intonation to it, similar to spacepook though I’m not sure whether it was at the same age.) He has a few words at a time, like go and uh-oh, but as has been the case over the last year he has two or three at a time, then retires one to start saying something else. P.S. The counting sounds like “uh, doo, rhee, or.” He counts up and back.

He’s been babbling more the last couple months and humming.  He used to hum the Dr. Who theme, and then he was humming the recess song from Timmy time (the show is only animals baa ing, woofing, or meowing etc. they think the fox says yip yip yow.)  I’ve taken to singing him the same lullabys when I put him down, “The Sandman” for nap and “Brahm’s lullaby” for bed, and I swear he hummed a few bars of Brahms the other night.

He also kind of counts.  I think it’s hopeful that he’s just approaching language grammar first instead of lexically, but we’ll see.


In other news Cedar has been humming some recognizable tunes. We thought the Dr. Who song might be wishful thinking, but the Timmy Time recess tune was clearer and now he does the chorus of “I am a Child of God.” What’s interesting is these seem to be fairly complex.

For a while Cedar was singing the “OREO” march from Wreck it Ralph/Wizard of Oz.  That was really cute.  But like other things, he did it for a while, then stopped.

March 13 2014
Theory of mind (the understanding that not everyone is experiencing what they are experiencing) is also something children in general have to grow into.  Cedar scores low on that, but the other day he showed me that he had hurt his hand, which is apparently one of the signs.  So that was nice.

My development textbook says theory of mind is in the 3 to 4 year range.  They go through a phase where they have enough theory of mind to try and get away with a lie, but don’t have enough to know it will be obvious that they are lying.  I read this, realize my children pretty much never lie, and don’t mind the ASD quite so much.

May 6, 2014 He is a lot more amorphously verbal than 6 months ago, so who knows.  He’s also a lot more affectionate since he started preschool.  He’s always been good natured and cheerful, but he hugs back now.

5/25/14 Yesterday Cedar held his arms up to me, as if asking to be picked up.  That was the first time I recall him doing that, and it’s very encouraging.  His chatter seems to involve more words and phrases lately, like thank you and goodbye.  Still putting function ahead of form, though – that is his words he does say tend not to be concrete nouns.  He may have said “tricia” last week, which was really sweet if somewhat random.

At preschool they said he doesn’t see to need year round schooling, though the pediatrician was worried about him regressing over the summer.  We’ll just have to try and do some enrichment activities like going to the park regularly and seeing if we can teach him some sign.

Cedar, who most of you know has ASD, will be four this month, and still doesn’t really talk.  He counts, and based on his play with number cut-outs he can order number symbols.  The other day he read the time off a digital clock, though with 3, 6 not 36.  And the other day he repeated “[Cedar], get down” when we told him to get off a coffee table.

He names colors too.  It’s funny because there’s a little girl who is a year ahead of him at church, who was a prodigious talker in nursery, but her mom posted on facebook that she doesn’t know her colors.  So you just never know with kids.

Something I ran across the other day was that Hekka had a 4 word rotating vocab at this age.  Cedars is more like 2 words, but I’d forgotten Hekka doing anything like that.

Yesterday I realized why Cedar says “six” with two syllables.  He’s epenthesizing the /ks/.  Though he doesn’t say it clearly enough that it was obvious that was the case.  My oldest did some weird syllabification too.

Sputnik was my only kid to do any talking that young.  He could talk pretty well before he got around to walking.

Something The Autistic Brain mentioned is that Temple Grandin couldn’t make out voiceless stops when she was little.  I’ve been thinking about that a lot and realized that all the easy to make sounds are hard to hear, and vice versa.  Mama, for instance, requires nasalization as well as oral articulation.  And looking at someone, it’s the same lip movements as baba.

The pyschologist who diagnosed Cedar felt there were at least 3 varieties of Autism (the first time I talked to him, before he was obligated to stick to the DSM5) which might correlate with Temple Grandin’s 3 types:  Fact-word, Picture connectors, and picture pattern thinkers.  (I might be all three and a couple others).  The 3 types we discussed (when he found out I was a linguist) had to do with age of catching up:  preschool, first grade, and 5th grade.  Which is interesting to consider relative to Piaget’s stages.

Cedar is starting to repeat more things from videos.  I bet he said 12 different utterances from Bolt yesterday, and he just tried to do the opening call from the Lion King.

Here’s something I wrote previously about it:
I looked it up and it appears the person I was assisting worked in autosegmental phonology, even though there was reference to The Sound Pattern of English.
Here’s an interesting bit, to me dealing with a language delayed child:
1.  the features or feature-complexes which are independent in child-speech should be precisely those which may be autosegmental in adult grammar;
2.  The process of language acquisition includes a task of “deautosegmentalization” or to use a less awkward term, restructuring of phonetics into linear segments….  pg 215  (This isn’t the person I assisted, this is someone else’s paper but recruits many references that are familiar to me.)

This is interesting because children with the syndrome formerly known as Asperger’s seem to adopt an expanded tier of interpretation.  It appears they process language on the phrase or sentence level rather than the word level, evidenced by a burst of language around age 3, sometimes talking in full sentences all at once.  The tendency to repeat entire phrases (often from books or TV) persists, and the difficulty in analyzing intention could also support this idea.

I am starting to wonder if Cedar can hear well.  He is doing more imitation.  He clapped hands when Hekka did this morning, and he was just imitating the faces Mack makes in Cars (reflected on the shiny truck).  He also sings something resembling “I am a child of God”.  He used to hum the chorus, but now he’s trying to sing the whole thing, kind of emphasizing the end rhymes.

He passed the sound booth when he was 2, but more recently he wasn’t responsive to the booth, and the gold standard oto acoustic emissions test doesn’t seem possible without anesthesia (the child has to be quiet during the test, and he hates stuff in his ears).  I guess I can ask our pediatrician about a prescription strength sedative, or if general anesthesia is a better idea.  It just seems kind of extreme.  It makes me feel very helpless and angry.

He’s done 3 encouraging things today.  He said “Hi” back to me when he woke up, tried to sing the ABC song (again, the rhymey parts) and has copied several small words.  I remembered too something Temple Grandin said about processing delays that make it hard for people with autism to distinguish voiceless stops.  That could also be causing his mushmouth.

Today Cedar was using Starfall, and he said something for every color, which was new.  He said “green” pretty clearly, apple for purple, and “ra” for red, though

Cedar said “ready, set… go” several times at the store tonight.  He also called tomatoes “red” and half sang brahms lullabye with usmost of the other colors didn’t sound much like the modeled word.  He’s really trying to imitate with me or with videos, just lots of stuff, and it’s very encouraging.

Now that Cedar does a reasonable approximation of banana, his speech is a lot like a minion.  Before this, he sounded a lot like a simultaneous translator for zebras and dilophosaurs.  I should try and get some video before that phase is gone.

Cedar now “Louie Louie”s the entire Alphabet song.  (That is, he doesn’t really know the words, but he does the tune with some likely sounding vowels).  We didn’t mean for him to learn that, we’re supposed to be working on functional communication.  But we had a friend visit for the weekend and she sang it with him enough times for it to stick, apparently.

There are a few songs it turns out Cedar knows once I recognize he’s singing them.  “Wheels on the bus”, “Ring around the rosie” and “Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam” and a few from signing time.

One thing I think goes on with Cedar is he finds different things relevant from us.

But he is signing colors now, which is pretty exciting since it involves making some of the alphabet hand shapes.  And last week I was talking to him about a toy, and said it had colors, and he named the colors in the toy accurately.  I am hopeful this means he has an understanding of what a category is.  I can’t wait for the preschool folks to see all he’s done this summer.  If he’ll do it, of course.  If he’s not comfortable in an environment (like church) he acts like he used to in January.

I just turned on a video which was muted for a bit, and Cedar may have read “Thank you” on the screen.  Or maybe spacepook had him watch Dinosaur Train more than I was aware back when she used to watch him.  Over a year ago.

Cedar brought me a pillow when I stretched out on the couch the other day.  And yesterday he pointed to show he really wanted something.  Though he didn’t point at what he wanted, really, just kind of used it as a gesture indicating urgency, I think.

Spells his name.  Doesn’t say Mama.

This morning he was singing along to Love me like you do.  Just a little.  Freaked us out, though.

Cedar went through a cute phase of saying and signing peach.  Now he’s repeating things like eggs, donut and ‘izza.

It’s like Cedar knows English about as well as I know a few foreign languages.  I went through a phrasebook audio this month, and I can repeat things and understand carefully pronounced things, but when asked to produce something I kind of freeze.  I’ve spent years in these languages but they still confound me.  But maybe it’s me as well.  My sister says I didn’t talk much until I was 5.

Cedar’s song of the week is Row, Row, Row your boat.
He is saying ice meaningfully too, which is one of his favorite things.

New this week was repeating his sister saying “Oh, shoot!” which made us forget what was wrong and start praising him.  He also repeated “poopy” and “diaper”.  And sometimes he says what seems to be “Bye, mom”.  But he usually says it several times if he’s going to say it.  He’s getting really good at saying cheese, too.

Yesterday Cedar identified an airplane and goldfish.  He has also been singing twinkle twinkle, more the tune than recognizable words, though.

Cedar is now saying things to get things (as opposed to repeating after models).  He also repeated tiger and peacock at the zoo.  Of course there were many more animals besides those that we pointed out to him but you take what you can get.

Cheese, eggs, ice cream, pizza, cookies.  He is saying hungry and careful quite often, too.

This week he’s been repeating more and more things, especially multiple word phrases like car cart.  He says (and signs) “stop and go” which is one of the songs on Potty Time, which he’s really excited about (a potty themed episode by Signing Time).  And last night when I was getting him ready for bed he said “nigh nigh” several times.  It feels like he’s really picking up steam.

This week we have zizzo (zero) fistbump, and today he started crying and grabbed my hand to wipe his tears which was weird but cute.

Feb 6: this week I thought he signed and said mom, so I signed and said mom, and he signed and said dada.  He will do the dada part pretty reliably now.  I guess another thing he’s added is saying “I see you” after peekaboo.  But it’s more like “zz zzz zzz see you!”

Feb 12:  He’s saying things he sees on videos without being prompted.  I suppose it bears mentioning, I put the video on so we could use our keyboards because he’s occupying them to type numbers as he says them, which is great but a little counterproductive for our modern lifestyle.

Worthy of a fresh reply:  Cedar is saying “five” with some sort of bilabial consonant at the front.  It’s kind of an unaspirated p, but we wondered if he was going to say haaah forever.  Six, I think, is also stopped being multisyllabic.

Feb 28: he signed sorry last night, which I thought was really cute.  He also does hurt, but he does the whole routine from the video showing his head and stomach.  I think he’s probably close a 200 word vocab, which is usual for age 2 (he’ll be 5 in March).

3/7: Thank you with sign.  Water, milk, toast but these are just CV.  There was one I forgot and then I remembered when I was backing out the car and now I’ve forgotten again.  I really hate that I can remember what I was doing when I remembered the word but not what the word was.

3/14: signed potty and said something along those lines\
3/15 signed and said book.

The signing is interesting because he wasn’t really into signing time until a couple of months ago, he found the potty time DVD in the basement and wanted to watch it, and every since then he’s been pretty interested in all signing time videos.  And he’s started signing “my body is amazing” in church a couple of times, though you can’t really make it out if you don’t know what he’s doing, which is perhaps fortunate.  He also asks for Shee shee, which seems to be Shaun the Sheep.

3/21 Soda.  I guess that settles what our family calls that.

4/4 help, bear (including signs) and count.

4/9 popcorn (just saying, but very cute).  He was naming a lot of letters last night, previous I’d only seen him reliable with is own name. Signing “wash hands” but not saying it too good.  And I just saw on signing time (after he went to bed) that he’s signed wash clothes a number of times but I haven’t understood him. :mellow:

4/11 truck, something resembling “aaron burr” (because we were eating cookies with milk and the kids were saying “aawon buww”) and possibly “omigosh”.  Now he’s trying to whistle.
4/16 watermelon, which was fun because later at a potluck he got some.  He also read P.E. off my screen.

5/19: a couple of weeks ago he said “Rudy, get down now” after I said “Let’s go now”.  It’s interesting because it was a few words, and not from a video.  He was saying “touch” very clearly, which was a good CVCC type thing.  Today I thought of words he know involved most alphabet sounds, though his F isn’t too good.

6/2:  Using some two word phrases, like vitamin C and chocolate milk.

5/29 Cedar bowed his head and closed his eyes during prayers at church.  I guess I wasn’t.  ;)

6/6/16 This week: more juice and “sumpin” which is an analysis of “spin”.  He used to just say “bin” but hopefully it will congeal like “six” did.  He’s also saying smething like tinkle, relevant to toilet training.  He has said “mom” a few times as part of the phrase “mom and dad”.  He signs about 75% of the words he says, not including numbers.