As a speech therapist, becoming a mom has been the second greatest learning experience of my career. Motherhood helped me understand, the far reaching impact of poor verbal expression and the role of speech therapy. It’s not just about whether you acquire vocabulary, but about learning to use language in a flexible way in order to convey your message.While waiting at the bus stop for my daughter one day I spoke to another mom who was waiting for her son. We spoke a little about our children. When her son got off of the bus he was terribly distressed, and when she tried to speak to him he began screaming and flapping his hands. Quite possibly he was high functioning on the autism spectrum.  What struck me was that he was not talking, even though in our conversation his mother had spoken about his many accomplishments that required complex skills. He was communicating his distress like a much younger child. As mom’s, we all know that when our children feel strong emotions they tend to react in an immature manner, but this was beyond that expected level of regression. All I could think was how hard this situations was on both the mom and child.

I was struck by the fact that the mother had no idea that part of her son’s problem was language based. At 11 or 12 he was screaming trying to convey a message that she could not understand in frustration he began flapping, crying and screaming.  In spite of, being very verbal he could not use his language to express his ideas.  My daughter has had similar difficulty dealing with overwhelming emotions and is hindered by areas of lagging executive functioning, limited emotional vocabulary, and  poor problem solving skills in spite of above grade level language abilities.  So when she is upset similar to this child she also use to throw tantrums. So this scene was somewhat familiar to me.

The take away in this scenario is that kids can have immense vocabulary and still not be able to use language effectively when needed. They can have the ability to  tell you the origin of every species of bird or relate complex ideas about history to current political events and still have language-based learning disorders because they are unable to use language effectively.

Do you have any thoughts and experiences that either support or negate this idea? I would love to hear from you.