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.