Samuel Jerome and Richnightder

Samuel Jerome and Richnightder
Our boys in Haiti

Monday, August 1, 2011

language disorders and other facts of life

It's widely known that Thomas has a language disorder.  It affects the way he hears, interprets and relays information he hears or sees.  When he was 5 and in pre-K  his teacher asked us to have him tested for ADD/ADHD.  I found an assessment center and had him tested only to be told he did not have ADD/ADHD, but instead had Semantic Pragmatic Language Disorder.

We kind of always knew something was weird in the way he reacted to social cues.  For instance, he never understood the fact that someone could be laughing with him and not AT him.  He'd get all pissy, stomp his feet and yell.  We also could tell that he was very verbal from a young age, but never realized his speech, while articulate, was mere parroting.  He also struggled with some sensory issues that affected his ability to eat foods with different textures and to deal with/ process outside stimuli such as large, loud settings or needing to sleep with a pile of heavy blankets on him.

Thomas worked his butt off to reach age appropriate goals in Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy.  He learned how to add content to his speech, how to extract information from his brain and articulate it, and how to 'read' social cues.  Perhaps the social aspect was the hardest.  It was interesting to see how Madison just innately got social inferences and facial expressions and yet Thomas had to be taught how to read someones facial emotions.  Weird.  My hat's off to Thomas for his diligent work over the course of 5 years in therapies.  While some social situations remain elusive to Thomas, he now is able to understand social parameters and gets when someone...or himself....are behaving outside of normal standards.  This is a huge accomplishment.

Even though he has graduated from Speech and OT, I still see areas of struggles.  The other day he had a really nice kid over to play.  He has been friends with this kid for 6 years and while I see that his friend is maturing at a faster pace than Thomas, I also see that Thomas notices it and strives to behave in an age appropriate manner.  Thomas works so hard to behave in an acceptable manner that is physically and mental whoops him.  When his friend went home, Thomas crashed.  He had a melt-down and was drained.  How sad that he has to work so hard to maintain friendships and social parameters. 

What's super sad about his language disorder is that his appearance to the world is 100%  average.  He doesn't wear a physical sign that tells the world he struggles with some issues.  There are times I want to hang a sandwich board sign around his neck that announces his struggles.  I worry as he gets older that the expectations of life get more demanding, he will be so frustrated that he won't be able to function.  I'd love to know why he has this struggle, but I guess it relates to the poor start he was given in life in utero.  My anger at the exposures he was subjected to even before his first breath is immeasurable.  I'm not angry at him.  I'm angry at his birthmom, but that is irrelevant now since she passed away.  I'm left to guide my son to successful adulthood: one where he can navigate the world of social situations and one where he must learn to voice his thoughts in articulate, clearly understandable  language.

While I know his struggles with life skills, he is greatly adept and trying to hide them from outside people.  My heart ached from laughter and from pain when I overheard this conversation with his friend while driving him home.  The comedy of errors began when Thomas' friend answered a question I asked him.
Me: Chris, isn't that you're cousin's house?
Chris: Which one?
Me: Your cousin, Jane.
Chris: Hmmmmm, that name rings a bell.
Thomas: What bell?
Chris: The lunch bell, idiot!

Chris is a wonderful kid, so don't get me wrong here.  It was just so sad to see that Thomas couldn't follow the simple conversation and grasp the social slang of 'ring a bell'.  Thomas is a very social kid and loves to be surrounded by friends, but finds it exhausting and now even he can see when he has failed to grasp a social cue or language inference.  He is still able to laugh off his faux pas but I wonder how it must feel to know he missed yet another simple, social cue? 

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