It is fair to say that Archie has some gaps in his vocabulary. I asked him to show me his elbows the other day and he pointed to his nipples (?!).  But one of the best things about having the talker is that even in these early days we’re beginning to see how he understands language and can use it appropriately. I hope that use will really improve his vocabulary as well, it’s very hard to learn a language when you are forced to be a passive recipient.

Last week we were driving to the beach and Archie did his usual trick of trying to direct me down a tiny country lane. Even by Devon standards this lane was small and I refused. He immediately quipped ‘later’ on the talker. A couple of days (later) I had a note in the home school diary saying he was using the word a lot there. Anyone working in autism will understand that generalisation is a big thing and I allowed myself a smile that school were as amused by his use of the word as I had been. Onwards and upwards.

What’s in a word?

As can be seen from the photograph the Vantage Lite screen contains symbols. During LAMP training one of the concepts stressed is that these symbols do not represent words as such. So when the child is learning to use the system, they’re not learning to match a symbol to a word, they’re learning a motor pattern. So pressing a sequence of buttons produces a particular word; that never changes. It’s described as being analogous to speech – so if I move my mouth in a certain way I produce the word – ‘surfing’, if Archie presses a sequence of buttons the talker says ‘surfing’. It didn’t initially incidentally, I had to bin baseball to add surfing.

After years of PECS this concept; of the picture not really representing anything at all took a bit of getting my head around. (Although thinking about it during the initial phase of PECS the picture has no meaning), but Archie helped out this week by demonstrating precisely this. He was playing with the talker and I could hear him exploring ‘hammer’,  ‘nail’ ‘saw’. Next he appeared next to me ‘ saw’ ‘saw’, then pointed to his lip showing me where he’d bitten it. It did look pretty sore (saw). He then dragged me to the computer where he opened google maps and quickly (of course) located the hospital. A quick point at the hospital, to his lip and another sequence of presses to get ‘saw’ and I was left to tell him that no, he didn’t really need to go to the hospital to have his lip looked at. So he asked for a blood test.

Still no up to date video of Archie using the talker, the past few weeks have been a bit manic as middle son Joseph was making his professional acting debut which involved a lot of ferrying around and me getting pretty behind with work (worth it though, great experience for middle son). However, Martin and Annika at Discovery Surf School made a lovely video of Archie surfing on a surprisingly warm December morning. It was pretty windy and wild, just the sort of conditions Archie loves. The video gives me goosebumps: