Listen! Do You Wanna Know a Secret?


July 7, 2012 by Marj Hatzell

There’s more to communication than just speaking. There’s listening, too. And for language to occur?  

Big difference between receptive and expressive language skills, mmkay?

Expressive: your ability to express yourself through communication (whether it is verbal, sign, PECS, etc)

Receptive: your ability to UNDERSTAND communication coming your way

You’d think it would be pretty simple, but unfortunately, with kids like mine there is often a HUGE disconnect between the two.

When you have kids with auditory processing disorders, often the receptive communication is lagging big time. They don’t answer to their name. Or you talk too much at them and there’s a thirty second lag between when they hear something and when their brain understands it, so you’re still talking and they’re still on the first few words and then about 15 seconds in they are technically 45 seconds behind and it all starts sounding like the adult conversations in a Peanuts cartoon…

whaa whaa wha wha whaaaaaa….

I mean, I love Peanuts (not real, live, edible peanuts, since they make me have anaphylaxis and stuff and I’m not into using my epipen, mmkay?) but my kids look at me like I have three heads when I talk to them sometimes, if I’m going too quickly or I say too much at one time. I don’t have three heads, for those of you not good at math.

Where was I? Something about communication. And I worry about THEIR ADHD. Huh.

For realz, though, we’ve done YEARS of speech therapy with the boys. Bug Boy speaks well enough when it comes to articulation but sometimes is super-duper frustrated when he KNOWS what he wants to say and it just cannot come out (expressive communication). This can be a big issue at school, especially when kids blurt the answer out after he’s been called on and he’s sitting there all, “Uhhhhhh…Buuuuuh….BYTES! KILOBYTES!” And he KNOWS the answer. There’s just this lag, you see. But he has come such a long way.

Bugaboo? Well, there’s that whole non-verbal thing (preverbal, for the PC types but I don’t think it’s pre-anything, because though I’m usually a very optimistic person I don’t think he will speak anytime soon. Bad Mommy). His expressive skills are obviously severely delayed but his receptive skills have grown amazingly well. He started improving a few years ago and we discovered it the hard way. It was right about the time we started spelling things around him. You know:

Me: I’ll take him to the P-O-O-L later. Can you take him to T-A-R-G-E-T while I shower?

The Guy I Live With: P-Uhhhh what?

Bugaboo: *runs around grabbing towel and bathing suit*

Apparently he learned to spell somewhere in there. Then we started using code words (Loop is backwards for pool). Then we had to start spelling code words (L-O-O-P). Then Pig Latin, in which I am quite fluent. Then..

You get the picture. He figures it out. Not bad for a kid who supposedly has an IQ of 42, huh?

Or like one day when one of Bugaboo’s therapists stopped by to work with him. Bugaboo was OBSESSED with the therapist’s leather binder to the point of distraction and the therapist forgot to leave it in the car.

Me: Where did you put the binder?

Therapist: On top of the piano. He won’t see it there.

Cue Bugaboo scaling the piano and standing on the keys to get the binder.


It’s all gone downhill from there. Or uphill, depending on how you look at it.

Cut to this past weekend. Bugaboo has stopped when asked while we are walking, listens better at the swim club and is able to complete one or two steps commands (go upstairs AND get your pants). We were setting up for a 4th of July party and my conversation with my sister went something like this:

“Darn it, I can’t find that platter and we need one more for the food. I’ll go look in a minute.”

Bugaboo scrambled down the stairs, I heard the downstairs storage room door slam, he came running back up the stairs. Then he threw the platter on the table and ran away, giggling maniacal.

Needless to say, I was floored.

Huh. This therapy stuff works!


10 thoughts on “Listen! Do You Wanna Know a Secret?

  1. Karyn M says:

    Don’t ever say Bad Mommy again, okay? You are the most awesome Mommy I have ever seen. Loved how you described the differences and the progress they’ve made. Made me stop and think that even with non-speech-impaired kids, we probably tend to throw a lot at them verbally and overwhelm them; maybe “bad” behavior is just stuff they didn’t get. Thank you for this post.

  2. wow. I got shivers reading this. Seriously.

  3. Jim Reeve says:

    Great post. I can imagine the steps you’ve taken as a mom to have an effective conversation. My son hasn’t been diagnosed with that type of disoreder, but if we bombard him with too many questions he’s sure to have an outburst. I’m the same way to a point. If someone asks me a question, I often need a minute to process their question, and then answer. So often, people think I’m ignoring them, but I’m not trying to, I’m just processing what they say.

    • I have issues processing, too. Takes me a minute, glazed over and staring at them (hope they don’t think it’s creepy, it’s just so I don’t get distracted and tune out) for me to get it.

  4. Heather says:

    It is amazing the things kids understand. I’m always totally floored by how quickly they pick things up when it’s something they are really interested in.

  5. Janet says:

    If you are a bad-mommy (which you aren’t!), then I am one too. I am looking forward to proloquo2go conversations. My little guy has great receptive language too — he likes to pretend he doesn’t hear.

    Great post – thanks for sharing.

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