Tuesday, March 29, 2011

First comes social, then comes language

If you haven't already watched this adorable video of two twin boys, go watch it now.

Now, if you thought, "Aww, that is so cute!" you would be absolutely justified. But this video offers some great insights into the social foundation upon which children build their language skills.

Words here? Just the syllable "da." Everything else, though, demonstrates the complex language skills these young boys have already acquired. It illustrates the point a speech pathologist once made during a seminar I attended--language is like a layer cake, and the foundations of those layers are social interactions.

The most basic layer is shared attention. You can see that the boys make eye contact with one another. Then there is social referencing. When one boy looks at the freezer, the other one follows his gaze to at the freezer too. They are conscious that the focus of the other's attention is significant, and so they turn their attention to that significant object. In addition, at about 1:30 one of the two boys turns to look at the person holding the camera, a sign that he wants to know whether that person's attention is on him and his brother.

They also react to one another's facial expressions. Although we can't see the facial expression of the boy whose back is to the camera, his brother laughs when he pauses, and smiles before returning the verbal exchange. They also use gestures, imitating one another.

Another thing to notice is the fundamental verbal communication skills they employ. Even though they only say "da," they do so with inflection. The boy whose back is to the camera raises the pitch of his last "da," suggesting an inquiry or at least an invitation to respond. In response, the other boy often shakes his head and waves his arm as if giving a negative to a question. Their turn-taking is also notable. Each one lets the other finish, which is why we can think of it as a "conversation," as the video title designates it.

If my analysis seems labored, forgive me. I go into all these details because I have never watched my children do this. These two baby boys are demonstrating sophisticated verbal skills that are commonplace among typical children, but not among developmentally delayed children. This beautiful interaction is more than cute--it is a marvelous gift.

(Thanks to Lynn Kilpatrick for sharing this link.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Spa Day

When you can swing a spa day, there is no downside. Well, that's not entirely true--it costs time. Time to do nothing. And there's money, if you're going to a spa. Lots of money, depending on what you do.

But today, I needed a spa day, because yesterday I spent three hours at the hospital with my daughter while she was having dental work done. (She's just fine, by the way. She now has a silver crown on one of her baby teeth and looks quite piratical if you look at her back teeth.) So I made it happen.

Since I can make time more easily than money, I did a home spa day. And since we now have a working jetted tub, a home spa day can be pretty nice. However, my home did not start out very spa-like today, so the first order of business was cleaning everything up, buying groceries (cucumbers, yogurt, salad, etc.), and setting up the "spa." The good thing is that spas always have lots of rooms with closed doors, so I could just close all the rooms that I didn't need to access.

I ended up spending about the same amount of time preparing the spa as I did enjoying it. "Mrs. Weber's Spa" only has one attendant, after all. DIY pedicures are never as good as professional ones (if only because of the positions you have to get in to reach your toes). On the plus side, I could wander around in booties, gloves, and towel (or less) without feeling at all awkward.

The moral of the story, I think, is that I needed to be my own attendant today. And as much as I enjoy being waited on by other people, waiting on myself is its own reward.

Well, spa day is over, and my house is a madhouse (albeit a cleaner madhouse) again.