When Axel came home to us, his language level was somewhere below 12 months. He'd never been given a way to communicate. I took custody of him on December 3rd, Just one day later on December 4th, he had figured out that these movements had meaning, and got him stuff! He was now imitating EVERYTHING I did, including things like scratching my nose. You know, it might be something important I was saying! By December 6th he had 11 signs he was using on his own.
Needless to say, we've had a lot of fun watching Axel FLY through language milestones! He has gained approximately 18-36 months (his skills are scattered all over the place!) of language skills in just 7 months home. Here is typical language development for a 12-24 month old:
- Produces considerable "jargon": puts words and sounds together into speech-like (inflected) patterns. Axel jabbers A LOT! Right now we get lots of " jdgsht skdgvguset wopstey....Kay?" Always with lots of inflection. Listening to him pretend to read is a riot.
- Holophrastic speech: uses one word to convey an entire thought; meaning depends on the inflection ("me" may be used to request more cookies or a desire to feed self). Later; produces two-word phrases to express a complete thought (telegraphic speech): "More cookie," "Daddy bye-bye." Axel is solidly at this place in his expressive communication. Now we're pushing him to give us 3-word phrases. Instead of just singing "play", we make him sign things like, "I want play".
- Follows simple directions, "Give Daddy the cup." Oh, Axel is able to follow any directions we give him as long as he understands the english word. For awhile he could only understand common phrases such as "Put your pajamas on." which is very typical for an English Language Learner. Now he can understand directions he's never heard before: "Axel, go get your sunglasses, then go to the car."
- When asked, will point to familiar persons, animals, and toys. He's started doing this on his own now, as if to show me, "I know what all this stuff is called now!"
- Identifies three body parts if someone names them: "Show me your nose (toe, ear)." He still sometimes mixes up "eyes" and "nose", but he can otherwise identify his ears, eyes, nose, neck, mouth, cheek, chin, hair, head, hand, fingers, foot, toes, arm, leg. Pretty good for being new to English!
- Indicates a few desired objects and activities by name: "Bye-bye," "cookie"; verbal request is often accompanied by an insistent gesture. Axel requests certain music daily. Always "Signing Time" of course, but he can request the CD's by name, (he calls them by the picture of whatever Rachel is signing on the front of the case. LOL) He can request to watch T.V. or to go outside. Funny thing though, he thinks "outside" means the back yard, so yesterday when he was outside with me he kept signing "outside" and pointing to the back yard. LOL
- Responds to simple questions with "yes" or "no" and appropriate head movement. Axel is just starting to do this, and it's not a firmly acquired skill yet. He will mostly just answer "yes". Having choices is something totally new to him so he's still learning that he CAN say no to something.
- Speech is 25 to 50 percent intelligible during this period. Axel's speech is largely unintelligible. His communication is ALL in sign. He has about 20 words he can actually say, but many of them are only understandable to those who know him. I would say his sign vocabulary is somewhere around 1,000 signs. That means his vocabulary is growing by approximately 4-5 signs per day! Right now I'm *really* pushing for sign clarity (correct, fully formed handshapes, placements and movements) as he has a tendency to be lazy with his signing, or to only sign one-handed even when he has both hands available to him. (I think this is just him playing with how signing works, because he sees me sign one-handed if my hands are full, etc.) He'll be going to a new class in September, and he's going to learn real quick that people are going to expect him to sign correctly.
- Locates familiar objects on request (if child knows location of objects). Oh, we are well beyond this, as long as he knows the NAME of the object. Sometimes he has a toy that I haven't given him a sign for yet, etc. then he's kind of stuck.
- Acquires and uses five to fifty words; typically these are words that refer to animals, food, and toys. As I mentioned above, Axel is far beyond this number. He's somewhere around 1,000 signs.
- Uses gestures, such as pointing or pulling, to direct adult attention. Axel is pretty good at trying to get Dean to understand him. (Dean is just learning to sign, and Axel has long since bypassed him.) Axel IS starting to express more frustration in his tone of voice and gestures when Dean isn't understanding him. This is where a communication device will come in handy, and I've now started working with him more on how to use the Proloquo2go program on the iPad.
- Enjoys rhymes and songs; tries to join in. Axel totally loves this activity, something he clearly missed out on.
- Seems aware of reciprocal (back and forth) aspects of conversational exchanges; some turn-taking in other kinds of vocal exchanges, such as making and imitating sounds. Axel totally gets this now! Sometimes he needs to be reminded to wait his turn, which is not unusual. LOL