Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Words are Gems to Collect

"As toddlers, first we grab and then we grab with words. Every word we learn is an acquisition, a bit of gold that makes us richer. We catch a new word and say it over and over, turning it like a rich nugget in the light. As children, we hoard and gloat over words. Words give ownership: we name our world and we claim it."  by Julia Cameron, The Right to Write

Children with autism often acquire words later but whenever it happens, it is just as wonderful to them and to those of us who have been waiting.  It is an extraordinary time to witness--that period when a child first understands words as gems--intrinsically interesting, available to collect, and magically powerful in both the internal world of thought and the external world of social interaction.  How surprising it must be when a child first comprehends that fleeting strings of sounds can represent objects, movements, events, time, color, feelings.  These words turn young speakers into poets, scholars, and rulers.

An example: One four year old, very new collector of words, looked out the window last week, and he studied a helicopter taking off from a pad on top of the hospital. Noisy fan on, he said after a thoughtful moment.  Because he had found, in his new shining collection of words, three words that were perfect, he suddenly was a poet, a scholar, and a king.  He was a poet because he combined words in an original creative way to express his thought.  He was a scholar because he had a tool for recording his observation and a way to share and discuss his discovery.  In the world of his own expanding imagination, he was a king who could rule over the roaring flying fans that would quickly join cars, trucks and trains in the kingdom of his play.

Bella Luna Wooden Helicopter


Anonymous said...

Tahirih, that bit of thoughtful writing, of sharing of your own powerful words, was lovely. Thank you.

S- said...

I had a meeting with parents this week, to help them understand a language evaluation that their child recently received. The evaluation mentioned incorrect word order as one of the language problems their child had. I told them I thought it was pretty means that he is personally selecting words to use instead of just saying memorized chunks!