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Word Court

Simon is now in the throws of a linguistic explosion. After months of hearing him say about a dozen words, we’re now sitting at a vocabulary of around sixty words and counting.

We’ve heard him say words like “dog”, “light”, and “ball” for ages. Today we also hear words like “house”, “clock”, “car”, “cracker,” and “yak.” He can talk about several types of food or drink, can say the name of several animals, correctly identifies about four colors, and can name many of his toys.

He’s been experimenting with combining words, too. So it’s not just “bye-bye” anymore when someone leaves a room or when he leaves someone behind, but “Goodbye, Mommy,” “Goodbye, Car,” or just a simple stream of “Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, GOOD BYE!” Passing by a row of closed up shops in Asheville last month, he declared that “all door shut,” and just today at a café he said to Matt “I love cupcake.” (Like father, like son.)

The upsides of this linguistic burst are enormous. Each day he comes up with at least one new word, and I await its revelation with the happy anticipation of a gift. Today’s new word was “coal,” as in Thomas the Tank Engine’s load. A couple of days ago it was “wall,” as in the outside wall of Keneseth Israel when we left the building after school. His pronunciation also adds to my enjoyment, whether it’s spot-on like the way he says “purple” or when it’s endearingly off, like when he says “subu” for “spider” or “dee-dee” for “red.”

Of course, Simon’s new skills arrive with some down-sides, too. Sometimes, he gets frustrated when he tries to tell me something, and I don’t understand him. Now that so much of his speech is intelligible, that which remains unintelligible is a greater source of frustration for him than ever. Other times the issue is that I understand exactly what he’s telling me, but don’t comply with his wishes. The only thing worse than my not understanding when Simon asks for a cookie is when I understand but say no.

I’ve spoken for Simon since he was only days old. One day my friend Jennifer remarked that we had all gotten so used to my fake voice that Simon’s real one, once it emerged, would come as a shock to us. Perhaps that is part of my current fascination. Regardless, watching him learn to communicate and getting a window into his thoughts is, more than any development to date, a thrill.

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