Tuesday, August 17, 2010

i disagree


Oratin (in the background to the left)


"Mom, what's the dinosaur's name?" asked my seven year-old daughter.

I turned my attention to the green plaster dinosaur overlooking the fifteenth hole at the putt-putt.

"Um, hmm, I don't know, baby."

"Mom, what's the dinosaur's name?" she asked again.

(This might be a good time to note that 1. everything and everyone in Brooke's world needs a name and 2. a question will be asked continuously until the 'right' answer is given.)

"I'm not sure, honey."

"Mom, what's the dinosaur's name?"

I know, I know - See number 2. I got it, but I was running on reserves. It was ninety-two degrees in the shade and keeping her on track for the previous fourteen miniature golf holes had taken a LOT of energy. 

"Mom, what's the dinosaur's name?"

I focused on the dinosaur. It was green. Very green. Neon green, in fact.

"OK, little one," I answered, "I think the dinosaur's name is Greeny."

She looked at him, then at me. Then she said something that nearly knocked me off of my feet.

"I disagree."

I ... um ... hmm .. WHAT??

I tried to wipe the smirk off my face.

My daughter - the one whose autism has so dramatically affected her communication - the one whose speech was entirely echolalic for YEARS - the one who had no novel speech AT ALL - the one who relentlessly slogs through countless hours upon hours of speech therapy and social pragmatics sessions - the one who is just starting to consistently identify emotions like happy, sad and scared - THAT child had just told me that she DISAGREED with me.

I could barely contain myself.

"Oh, OK, sweetheart," I mustered, trying to keep my voice even. "So what do YOU think the dinosaur's name is?"



With an exaggerated movement, she nodded her head - eyes up to the sky, then chin to chest, up to the sky then chin to chest again, demonstrating another of her recently acquired skills as she added, "I'm sure of it!"

OK, so that last line was straight from Dora the Explorer in The City of Lost Toys - lilting intonation and all. But let's not split hairs. Besides, she used it perfectly.

Back to the point.

My girl said, "I disagree."

Day after day I watch her slowly work to crack her world open. That day she found the ability not just to access it, but to challenge it. A seismic shift in two words.

Progress is power.

I disagree is freedom.

And she was right, after all. Greeny did him no justice. He is OBVIOUSLY an Oratin. 


Jess can be found at diary of a mom where she writes about life with her daughters - Katie, a neuro-typical nine year-old and Brooke, a seven year-old who has autism - and her husband Luau. 



  1. Yes, the repeated questions until the right answer is supplied--I know that well! I LOVE that she disagreed with you!! (In the best possible way)

  2. Heck, that "I disagree" is way better than a hole in one!!! Awesome.

  3. Congrats!!!
    I told my youngest (who's still very much non-verbal) on Sun he couldn't have something. He looked at me and said "Why??" I may not hear it for months again.... but I'll take it.

  4. DOAM, just wait......the " I disagree" will continue and before you know it she will be into iCarly and all things Jonas Brothers. I know, cause that's whats happening here...just when you think it will be Disney forever, boom it changes and as I often say, change, its a good thang:) Enjoy, I am soooo happy for you all.

  5. Oratin is a way better name than Greeny.
    Sorry, sister.
    She constantly defies expectations and the thing I love - really sees life through an artistic lens. I teach adults who pay a whole bunch of money to see life through another focal point. She's already there.
    And yes, I also love that she is using her scripts perfectly. I remember when my daughter would do that; it sort of blows me away that these kids - with limited language - can find a way to use what they've got to communicate.
    And they do it with such panache.

  6. My 6yo daughter w/ Aspergers who was also speech delayed, told my mom and I last week that "she was not DISTRACTING the dog". I LOVE IT when she uses big words! People don;t understand the simple joy of that, it's taken for granted all the time....

  7. What a wonderful description of what so few of us ever experience.
    Mine came one day when dd1 (prenatal stroke survivor) uttered the word 'up' when an elevator opened for us. It was the first time she'd ever labeled or described an object. I was 34w pg at the time and burst into tears in front of a bunch of staff at our playgroup. I didn't care one bit, it was one of the happiest moments in my life, I knew we'd be just fine no matter how her speech developed.

  8. I love it!
    Disagreeing is a wonderful thing to master.
    Go Brooke!

  9. Awesome! My son has twice in the last week tried to cast the blame for something onto another person. He has never done that before - I was so excited! It was done very badly and I did have to explain that he shouldn't do it, but it's nice to know he is starting to understand the social code a bit more. :)

  10. WOW
    What brilliant progress your child just made

  11. Of course his name is Oratin!!! She is so damn brilliant!

  12. "I disagree" - I can just envision it - was it in a tone like she'd been saying it all along? Brilliant, indeed! xo

  13. Excellent!
    Hold on to your hat...pretty soon she may be disagreeing with you about many things.
    Our current favorite is brushing teeth...
    But it really is a good thing. I just read a post elsewhere about some individuals not learning the idea of giving an opinion until adulthood...
    Woo hoo!
    Never thought about repeating the question until the right answer is given. I'll have to think about that a bit. My twins both do this even though their speech has progressed fairly normatively...interesting.

  14. Both of you deserve props in this story -- Brooke for her awesome progress in pragmatic language and Jess for attempting miniature golf with the family! ;-)

  15. Go Brooke! That is awesome. It is those little things that mean so much.

  16. Love it. Brooke rocks!

  17. That is awesome. My son Jacob, also on the autism spectrum, also with language development/processing issues as his main deficit, has just begun using the word "frustrated" correctly to describe how he is feeling. I had no idea he knew the word until he started using it. I had also written a post on my blog this past spring called "The "S" word is Stupid" about how glad I was Jacob was using the word "stupid" in frustration (something usually frowned upon in our house), because it was so "typical." So congratulations, and I wish you many more disagreements to come.