Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A kid who doesn't ask questions, a mom who never wondered why

I'm going to be immersed in BlogHer for the next few days, so I kept the kids up late to spend more time with them. Sabrina has been asking a lot of questions lately and tonight, she was full of 'em.

During bathtime, she asked what had happened to some purple bath wash we'd had and I told her I accidentally left it at the hotel we'd stayed at this weekend. "Oh, so now other people are going to use it?" she asked.

When I told her to just ignore the wiggly front tooth that is bugging her, she asked, "What does 'ignore' mean?"

She also asked how books are made while we were reading Chrysanthemum (an awesome book about accepting differences). Then, as I was putting her to bed, she asked why her hair was curly, at which point I realized the kid was trying to put off sleep for as long as possible.

After Sabrina finally dozed off and I had some quiet time, it struck me: Max doesn't ask questions. There is a scary possibility it may be a cognitive issue, which I'll bring up with the neurologist on our next visit, but I know for sure that he can't yet articulate a string of words or raise the pitch of his voice to signify that a question is being asked. Perhaps there are questions trapped inside his head; it would be hard to demonstrate them with hand gestures, and we haven't tried q's on his iPad's Proloquo2Go speech communication app. Again, another one of those times when I'm wondering what is going through his mind.

I've never once thought about how asking a question requires an actual voice technique, until now. Over the years, Max's cerebral palsy has made me acutely aware of the vocal abilities and intricate tongue movements required for speech, so much so that I sometimes think it is a miracle Sabrina is able to gab away, as she does. A miracle. I am not one of those moms who ever wishes she could flip an "off" switch on her overly-chatty child because I hungrily gulp down all of Sabrina's words.

Obviously, Max has a whole lot of smarts. I've always known that. Doctors have long said they can tell Max is bright just by the look in his eyes. But this lack of questions? I'm not sure what's up with that. I'm also wondering how it's possible that my boy is 7, and I've never once thought about the fact that he does not ask questions. Or missed them.

That's kind of haunting me tonight.


  1. It is hard to miss something that wasn't there. Especially with a first child. Oldest had speech delay due to ear infections but I didn't know until the dr.pointed it out.

    Have fun at the conference.

  2. That is so true, Siobhan. Thanks for that perspective.

  3. Echoing Siobhan's comment. While I was out at Yahoo a couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to speak with two guys from their accessibility lab. They showed us many things, including a touchpad word/icon board that was easily customizable (at home, school, etc.) I was fascinated by it. Hopefully technology will help Max communicate what his mouth can not at this time.

    Have fun at BlogHer. (I'm staying home this year. See you at TypeAMom?)

  4. my oldest didn't talk until he was 2. I didn't think anything of it. When he was 13, I was explaining some of the quirks that my (then) almost 4 year old had from his apraxia...and the friend said that my oldest son "does that too". It was then that I realized that he probably had undiagnosed apraxia, and that it was too late to do anything about it.

    You *do* realize, when Max finally learns to do some of these things, you *are* going to have moments of wishing he didn't know how. I know there are times that I longingly remember the times when my (now) almost 5 year old couldn't talk...

  5. Having a 6 year old boy with apraxia who's mostly nonverbal, I think that the inability to ask questions definitely impedes his intellectual development. It's very scary.

    1. Somehow I doubt that. A child can be intellectually advanced and still not ask questions, thats just how it works. Its not "scary" because you just get used to these things.

  6. Hi, there-
    My son is in the process of learning how to ask questions, but it is a slow, specific teaching process. It's not like it is "just" happening at all. I have twins, so I am constantly caught off guard when I realize, like you did, that there is yet another thing that Ross isn't doing that Riley is doing effortlessly. In this case, I am working with Ross' therapists to directly teach question asking. He's making tiny bits of progress.

    Also, I am an autistic support teacher and I have seen tons of kids come through my classroom who can't ask questions. I know that Max doesn't have autism...but it seems that lots of "our" kids need to be taught this particular skill.

    Have fun at BlogHer! Can't wait to read about it!

  7. How much do you guys use that tablet thingy? Do you ever sit down and take turns using it, like say, you ask Max a question with it, and he answers, using it, and then you tell him to ask a question, and he answers...sort of make a game of it? Sometimes ya gotta prime the pump.

    He does ask questions, though--when he says ICE CREAM, he's asking for some, and when he says CAR WASH, he's asking you to take him there, and when he points to something purple and vocalizes, he is saying "Can I have that thing?"....he's just not asking those "why" questions (why is the sky blue, grass green, type stuff). He's not simply making demands, because you can (and I assume do, at times) say NO, and he gets what that's all about.

    How does it go when you use that tablet? You don't talk about it much, so I was wondering if it was a worthwhile item...

    I hope I don't triple-post again...I feel like such an ass when that happens (there's something wrong with my click-button)...

  8. Those nights when one of these bone deep questions haunts you are the worst...but I usually find that I wake up with a plan!!

  9. Yeah. Graham never asked the questions either. 'Cause he didn't have the verbal skills and vocabulary... and when he does now... I struggle to relay the information between speech and sign and hope I'm clear enough for him to understand.

    We have that book!!

  10. Sarah, this much I know: If and when Max does have more conversational skills, I will NEVER tire of hearing him speak. Never ever ever ever ever.

    Melissa, it hadn't even occurred to me that asking questions is something to be taught. I am going to talk with the speech therapists.

    Felicia: I definitely owe you guys an update on Max's use of the iPad and Proloquo2Go! Things are great. We do use it to ask HIM questions. His favorite one being, "Max, who's your best friend?" at which point he goes to his classroom category and points to his bud, Caleb. So he gets how to answer. And, yes, when he utters requests, I guess the question is implicit. Good points. Still, I would love for him to be able to utter a whole sentence as a question.... That's the fantasy. I'll bet it can happen, if questions can be taught, because Max is so teachable. And, my friend, you can triple post anytime. Because what you say is always THAT good.

  11. Ellen, I remember the first time S asked me a question. I remember exactly what the question was too. It was 'What's that?'. He was pointing to a building. I asked him 3 times to repeat what he'd said. I was so thrilled that he'd asked a question, I nearly forgot to answer it ;-).
    Having said that, it wasn't something I'd really thought about being important until it actually happened. It just came out of the blue one day. Don't let it haunt you!! You are so right that it's not something you can teach. One day it will just happen.
    Sorry I've not been around much. I read, but usually with babe in arms which makes typing comments tricky.
    We really need to compare iPad/p2go notes one day soon xo


Thanks for sharing!

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