Sunday, August 26, 2007

Pragmatics, Part I

I'm gearing up to push, this year, for someone, somewhere, to start helping N with some of his language problems. His pediatrician wrote a note to the school recommending a speech evaluation, and several of my very-learned-and-astute-in-this-arena friends have strongly suggested the same.

My concerns are that, in a school district that has ignored me at every step, his literal 'speech' issues are not serious or severe enough to warrant speech therapy or other services. But that's only if you ignore, as school districts tend to do, language (focusing only on speech) and pragmatics (focusing only on diction). Because, MAYBE, if he's in the mood to speak clearly, you can understand most of what he says...if he's reading words out of a book, say. But when he speaks on his own, half the time it's not the sounds that are the problem, it's the words. Or, rather, it's the sentences. They're mixed up and backwards. Sometimes they're outright inside out. Most of the time they require you to either know the context of what he's talking about, or to know his speech the fact that he sometimes mixes up opposites, so that yes can literally mean no and vice versa.

But it's impossible to explain this without examples. And it's even harder to explain it to a school district or, if that doesn't work out, a private speech therapist. Which is why, a while ago, I started keeping track of some of these 'quirks' in N's language; I was making a list of solid examples that would make my concerns clearer. Except, um, I seem to have lost it. Don't ask.

For the next little while, then, I'm going to try to write them down here, because I can't lose the internet, right? (Well, I probably *can*, but I'd have to try a lot harder than I did with that yellow pad of mine.) So, if you're not interested in the weird language quirks of a 6-and-a-half-year-old about-to-enter-first-grade boy, feel free to ignore any and all future installments of this sort of thing, which I'll call Pragmatics (so I can find it more easily).

Here is the sentence that prompted me to do this tonight, right now; the one he said to me not five minutes ago:

"What time I want to brush my teeth?"

(Translation: When do I HAVE to brush my teeth? Not only is the "What time I want" part just clunky and awkward and missing the word 'do', but the 'I want' is 'wrong'; he was trying to find out if he could WAIT to brush his teeth, because he didn't want to brush them or, more specifically, to go to bed, which is what directly follows brushing. He was very much NOT saying he wanted to brush his teeth. Except, of course, that's what he DID say. And, because I knew this, I was able to just answer, "You have to brush your teeth right now." Almost anyone else would have just stared at him in bewilderment.)

So that's today's installment. To those of you still here, thanks for listening. And deciphering. And caring.


po said...

Caring as always, here. I can understand your wanting to try and figure out what's up with this. Some processing issue, but exactly WHAT, it's difficult to say.

As an unfortunate veteran of the trenches wrt school districts and testing, my advice would be to have N evaluated by a private speech therapist. Then if there is a diagnosis for which a certain type of therapy would be warranted, go wave the eval. at the school district. Because you might go old and grey before they do all the appropriate testing themselves :(.

Rich | Championable said...

That is a tough one. My daughter has a traditional speech problem, so it's been pretty easy to address from an identification standpoint. She's been overcoming a lateral lisp.

As you know better than me, then difficulty of advocating on behalf of your children is that you have to manage the psychology of the administrators and professionals involved. Always tricky.

Good luck, my friend.

Green said...

I read the Part II before reading this one, so I apologize if you didn't want suggestions (since I gave one). Please let us know so we (I) don't piss you off.