Teacher Professor

October 4, 2010

Baby Talk

Filed under: Autism — Teacher Professor @ 11:47 am

It’s driving me crazy that Elizabeth is doing a lot of “baby-talk”.  It’s frustrating to me because she can talk fairly well now and fascinating to me because she never did talk like that.

Elizabeth was monotone for years- no babbling, no cooing- just a pleased hum or a piercing screech.  For years.  Very little variation of sound.  I can still hear her “Dah?” voice in my head that might be “What’s that?… Daddy… Cody Dog…” or “Is it dinnertime yet?”  Until she turned 3 and a half when the dam burst and she broke out in the language that had been there- just not expressed.  She never did do single words or phrases- she went straight from grunts to full sentences.  Not, of course, sentences that were entirely age-appropriate, but still- sentences!  This, with a LOT of help from her phenomenal speech therapist who had her pop bubbles, chew gum, describe, describe, and describe and gave her “frames” on how to construct sentences.  Elizabeth was off and running.  With a limp perhaps, but running. 

Language still comes with difficulty- the social cues, the fine distinctions- they get a little blurry.  But it’s there.  She’s “age-appropriate”, which is not- for her- “ability-appropriate”, but good enough to blend into fourth grade.  There is a large gap between what she understands and what she can tell you.  Ironically, she does very well on multiple choice tests- because she knows- and does very poorly on essays- she just can’t tell you. 

Which is why it is simultaneously amusing and so frustrating when she lapses into “baby talk”.  Her favorite game of all time is “House” where she is the baby.  Ths weekend, she and Emily played hours of “House”, where Emily “taught” her to walk and to talk and where Elizabeth got to whine with impunity.  It got old to me to hear her “Goo goo gaga”, misusing pronouns and being carried.  To me, it wasn’t cute then, and it’s not cute now.  It was hard then…

It brought back “that” time to me- the fight, the terror, the worry, the heartache.  Not that those things are gone- they’ve just… changed.  And to be reminded of the battles that were so painfully won when we’re armed for new issues, new battles is just frustrating.  I have an almost-Pavlovian reaction to Elizabeth’s “Dah” where I can feel my “fight or flight” instrincts kick in.

And perhaps that is the very reason she regresses so easily.  She wants to babble, she wants the stilted language- she wants to be at a place where language is not hard, where it is not something she has to think about. She wants to relive her “war story” and to feel superior to that younger Elizabeth who struggled with, and could not do those very things she’s mastered now.  She tends to lapse into “baby talk” as a way of dealing with anxiety; as a way of drawing upon past successes to help her with current challenges.  It’s a trigger that tells me that she’s stressed out. 

But it stresses me out.


  1. Brings back memories of her early struggles and our need to grapple with it… Love, J

    Comment by Jim — October 5, 2010 @ 8:20 pm | Reply

  2. Baby talk is undoubtedly effective when trying to attract the infant’s attention. However, I suppose that it should be avoided when communicating to older children. Therefore children should be learnt to speak correctly without cooing and so on.

    Comment by Perfect Helen — October 11, 2010 @ 5:38 am | Reply

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