In the past few weeks, Kathleen (our wonderful speech therapist) has been doing a little bit of testing and evaluation at our request. It's been an interesting experience.
Kathleen asks Tom what the object is on the page, and Tom replies "that's just a toothbrush."
"And what do you do with a toothbrush?"
"Well, when it's bedtime I go upstairs, and then I go into the bathroom. And then I brush my teeth. And I use my toothbrush to brush my teeth."
"What goes with a toothbrush?"
"Well, when I brush my teeth I use my strawberry toothpaste."
It's the long winded approach, but it gets where it's going. But now try this on for size. Kathleen asked Tom what foods he likes to eat. We got into a conversation about trying new foods, and he said "I don't like trying new foods."
"But sometimes," I said, "you like trying new foods. Like garlic bread. You liked garlic bread."
"Yes," said Tom. "This summer we went on a whale watch. We went to Provincetown, and the waves were huge. I felt scared, and I was crying. Some people threw up!" (Here I tried to interrupt to get him back on course, but Kathleen stopped me)
"But after the whale watch," Tom went on, "we went into the town. I saw the pirate museum, and I wanted the pirate toy. But I didn't get it. But then we went to the candy store, and we went to the restaurant. And I wanted pizza. But Dad said, I have something neeew you might like. And he said try this bread. And it was garlic bread. And I liked it!"
A ha! At the very end of the shaggy dog story, there was the garlic bread - safe and sound, and really foremost in his mind after all. Who would have guessed? You'd think I would have worked it out, but today I was surprised again.
We were at Kathleen's and Tom pulled out a toy I'd never seen - a little turkey-like plastic bird. I asked where he'd got it, and he went off on a long riff about picking things up off the ground and why we don't like him to do it, and how he feels about that... and on and on...
"But Tom - where did you get THAT bird?" I asked again.
"Well, when I lived in Pennsylvania, I went to pony camp."
"Yes, you did - but - "
"And my favorite horse was Scooby. And there were lots of different animals living there. There were pigs, but they weren't pink. They sometimes got angry. And there were goats. Do you know what goats like t eat? They like crab apples. And grass. And there were sheep. The sign outside the sheep pen said 'baa baa black sheep.' And there was Fred the Rabbit. I liked to feed him. And sometimes we went inside the barn, and had lunch. And that's where I found this toy."
Now, I know I am somewhat directive in my style, which is something I have to work on. But I have to say it never occured to me in my wildest dreams that Tom's long winded, totally off-topic wanderings weren't off topic wanderings at all, but rather shaggy dog stories with a point and a purpose. I guess it just goes to show what you can learn if you stop assuming you know what's going on, and actually pay attention.
Lesson - mostly - learned.