Utter Autism

June 23, 2007

Shut Up! I’m being age appropriate!

An interesting feature of the Dyavox V’s preprogrammed phrases are some of the ‘age appropriate language’ they included.  I went to a workshop where they explained how they felt that kids with disabilities needed access to the same language that other kids their age used.  While I’m all for that, the “Shut Up!” and “Mine!” buttons were a little shocking to hear.  They went on to remind us that everyday speech is not as formal as it’s sometimes programmed. “Could you please pass the butter?” should be “Pass the butter” in a more casual setting. Ok, I can see their point.

When Adrian’s device arrived I had to decide if I should leave some of these ‘age appropriate’ phrases on or remove them. I thought perhaps I was simply not being open enough in my thinking. Was it my own comfort level keeping him from engaging in more age appropriate speech?

Then all the sudden it dawned on me.  This is not language that I’d allow my other kids to use!  This is not ‘age appropriate’.  This is inappropriate no matter what your age!  We don’t say things like “Shut up!” around here, why should we be encouraging Adrian to do it?  The three year old might occasionally say “Mine!” but he’s quickly reminded that it’s not appropriate and he needs to go about asking for his item in a calm, polite manner.  I feel that our job is to teach Adrian appropriate communication skills.  How can we expect him to do that if we’re giving him inappropriate choices?

As far as the casual language goes, I see the point about shortening the phrase to make it more casual.  But in the examples they gave, they almost always removed a key word in our house – “Please.”  For our other children, it’s not optional.  Adrian’s no different.  He knows and uses the sign for please as well as making a pretty good vocal approximation.  I program a prominent “please” button on each page that makes a request… and we expect him to use it!  Casual language need not be rude.

I think the fact that these choices were put in there shows that our society has a lax interpretation of ‘age appropriate’ language in general.  I’m just glad I can re-program these phrases to be polite and respectful.  To me, that is age appropriate.


  1. well i do agree that what may be ‘age appropriate’ may not be appropriate language in your house…i disagree with your opinion. your other children do not say ‘shut up’ because they have been taught good manners. but they DO have the ability to make the wrong choice and to say ‘shut up’. of course, that child may be punished for saying it, at least they have the option of saying something rude and must later pay the consequences. isn’t it only fair that adrian too, has the option to say something wrong, but that he chooses not to? that would be more commendable…that he chooses not to say rude things (but could if he wanted to). it would probably make him(and you) proud that he, like your other children, have been raised well and know not to say rude or inappropriate things. spoon-feeding him only nice and proper things to say…will never give him the opportunity to be ‘bad’ and ‘get grounded’ like your other children. you are robbing him of a normal part of childhood…getting yelled at by your parents for saying something rude! i hope you reconsider how you feel about the ‘inappropriate language’ and give your child the ability to make his own choices…(and i am sure he will make the right ones).

    Comment by Jessica — July 2, 2007 @ 10:04 am

  2. I suppose for some kids that would be ok. In general though, Adrian isn’t disciplined in the same manner as the other kids because really the only ‘disobedience’ he displays is directly related to his inability to fully control his compulsions. We try to manage his behavior rather than punish him for what he can’t control.

    I’m not certain that he would (or could) understand why we don’t use these words and under those circumstances we’re very careful about skipping ahead to punishment and consequences. A child needs to be able to take responsibility for their behavior before you can hold them accountable for it. Being non-verbal, Adrian hasn’t been able to display a level of understanding in those areas.

    It’s true that he’d probably never use those sayings given that we don’t use them around here. But since the organization of the vocabulary on the device really needs to be as functional (and fast) as possible, putting in vocabulary that won’t get him anything but a punishment isn’t the best use of valuable space for Adrian. I imagine the same is true for a good chunk of the kids who are using these devices.

    Nevertheless, thanks for sharing your opinion.

    Comment by Carol — July 3, 2007 @ 10:07 pm

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