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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How Come Kayla...

A couple weeks ago I went on Kayla's school field trip to the zoo. I had another boy - O - to chaperon as well. It's always fun for me to see Kayla and her classmates interacting and how much they seem to like her and get along with her. But it also reminds me of the differences and even though they appear to accept Kayla, even at this age they do recognize differences.

Kayla, O, and I sat on the bus together and not longer after we left it was obvious O had some questions about Kayla.

First he asked, "how old is Kayla?" I told him he could ask Kayla. The same time Kayla was responding "I six" O was saying, "but I'm tired of her always telling me she's 6!" in this exasperated tone, like he thought she was lying to him all this time. It made me laugh.

I told him that's because she IS six. He seemed skeptical. The questions started.

How come she doesn't look like she's 6? How come she's so small? I'm taller than her. How come she can't do xyz. How come she still scribbles? How come she doesn't listen all the time? How come she talks like that?

He seemed most interested in the way she pronounces some words. He mimicked some of her speech patterns ... copying her after she said certain words (like "Kayla" still comes out 'Kay-ya'). He wasn't doing it in a bratty, or mean, way. He just seemed curious.

I did my best to just answer that everyone is different and not all the same height. Some people have trouble learning how to do things and Kayla is learning how to speak and write, but its harder for her so it takes a little longer for her to learn those things.

On the way home he was mimicking her speech again and then I brought up sign language and explained that Kayla also knows how to talk with her hands and she can use signs for words. I told Kayla to show him a few signs like 'please' and 'share.' I was going to show him some animal signs but he shook his head and said he didn't want to learn any signs. I explained to him that one day he might meet someone who can't hear and if he knew some signs he would be able to communicate with that person.

So I said "This is the sign for friend" and Kayla and I signed friend. He seemed really interested in that and sat up in his seat watching my fingers. He then concentrated on his own fingers doing the right movements for 'friend.' Then he turned in his seat so he was facing Kayla directly, put his hands out close to her face, signed 'friend' and gave her a hug. Yeah, my heart melted.

I know that Kayla's speech and language aren't like a typical six-year old. I know she has issues with pronunciation and doesn't use full sentences. She seems to use as few words as she can to get her point across. But I'm so used to the way she says her words that I know what she's saying and I sometimes forget that not everyone can understand her. Especially other kids. The field trip made that point obvious, and then a few days later it happened again.

We were at a local park and Kayla was on the tire swing when another girl joined her. Within a few minutes that girl started asking "How come she talks like that?" and I used the same answer that some kids have trouble learning how to say words, that some things are harder for her to do but she is trying her best. I then said "but she has a lot of words that she can say and you can understand."

So that turned in to a 'game' of sorts.
The girl said "Say car."
Kayla, "Car."
Girl, "Say hair."
Kayla, "Hair."
Girl, "Say sister."
Kayla, "Titer."
Me, "Kayla, ssssissster."
Kayla, "Sister."
Me, "See she can say a lot of words."
The girl continued with word after word and some phrases (I love you. I love my family.) Kayla smiled and giggled the whole time.

A short time later a boy joined them on the tire swing. As soon as he sat down Kayla said, "Say car."
Boy, "Car."
Other girl, "Say bouncing car."
Kayla, "Say bouncing car."
Boy, "Bouncing car."
Kayla, "Good job!" That's my girl!

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Becca said...

This was a VERY interesting post, Michelle. Thanks so much for writing this. It's amazing how much we forget the differences until our kids are around other typically-developing peers. I, too, understand everything Samantha says, and forget that even younger children speak in more complete sentences. A 4-year old called her a baby recently, which really hit me pretty hard. Yikes. Kayla's an amazing little girl, and I'm totally not surprised that she makes friends so beautifully! Good for her! I can't help thinking that those "differences" may become fewer or may lessen as she gets older and learns so much more...? This age just seems so transitional.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

Six-year-olds should be in charge of the world. There would be world peace and, of course, ice cream sundaes at every meal.

Crittle said...

I'd be glad to be the kind of mom you are in 3 years. I'm scared though. Really scared. I hope I get it right.

my family said...

I love that story, she is lucky to have such agreat mom

Jaida said...

Thanks for this post. My son's 3.5 and his peers aren't quite at an age where they can identify a real difference. I know it's coming though, and your example of how to deal with these interactions is very useful and comforting. Thanks again for sharing.

Mom24 said...

That's awesome Michelle. What a blessing you were to those kids that you didn't get upset or mad and instead used it for positive teaching moments that they'll remember all their lives. It's good for Kayla too that she sees you handle things like that matter-of-factly.

Where would our world be without the Kaylas?

Tina said...


Shelley said...

What a gorgeous post Michelle - and a great opportunity to do some awareness/acceptance teaching on the hop. I love how kids can be so much more open to difference than some adults - if they are given the chance. And Kayla is of course absolutely gorgeous - I love her positive praise for the boy. So sweet.

Erin said...

Very cute story. I am a little nervous about how to answer questions like these although I have yet to encounter one. I suppose when the time comes I'll have to be ready. Kayla seems like such a delightful child.

Bailey's Leaf said...

I am so glad that rather than take it as offensively, you chose to use this as a learning experience for the kids involved. So often, kids see differences and think that they are wrong.

Thank you for teaching them that being different is not wrong, it is just another way of doing things.

Nancy M. said...

You are really great at giving good answers to those children and helping them learn more, like with the sign language. I know a 7 year old with a speech problem and it's hard for anyone outside his family to understand him. Kids can be so different, but so beautiful!

Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said...

How sweet, though. I know that she will be in for some less than sweet moments in her future, but it is nice to know that most people (especially children) are kind-hearted and simply curious.

And WHEN did she turn 6, exactly? How are our babies getting so old???

Sasha said...

You are a great mom. That is great to show the boy how to do sign language and that we can communicate in different ways.

Anne and Whitney: Up, Down and All Around said...

thanks for sharing these two stories and how you handled it... i love the part where the boy "o" signed 'friend' to kayla and then gave her a hug!!!!!

Beth said...

Great post! Love the last part!

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Joyfulness said...

How wonderful. I love how you both handled that. I'm giggling about how the game was turned to the boy at the end. So cute.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Children at four, five and six years of age DO notice differences. I've noticed it with Gabriel's classmates as well as when we meet new friends at the park.

The beauty about this time of their lives is that the questions are based on pure and sincere curiosity.

I loved the last of your post the most. Education is a wonderful thing!

Chris said...

LOVE this post!

You are such an amazing mom! Give yourself a pat on the back. You and Kayla just helped educate those with questions, and as a result, made it a better place for ALL children.

Kathleen said...

Isn't it amazing what a little communication can accomplish - You should send this too our Congress. They could learn a few great lessons on how to communicate. Have a great day!

Mary said...

Love this post. Thanks for sharing it.

The Munck Family said...

TEARS... Yes, tears are running down my face! I needed this post today..sigh* Thank you and what a blessing in the lives of many that Kayla and your family are touching. Way to go Kayla & mom to open the eyes of those who have them closed...that's a job well done!

Kristin said...

What a great little inside look.

Sunny said...

This post put a smile on my face. Thanks for sharing. I always feel like I deal with the "how come" questions the wrong way. Hopefully by the time Antalya is six I have have as much grace and confidence as you do:)

Christina said...

She is so precious! I like that explanation you are giving, as my son has speech issues too but I haven't had to address them with other kids yet.

Carrie said...

I love that you taught "O" the sign for friend and then he used signed it to Kayla! And I love the way you used both experiences as a teaching opportunity. I'll have to remember to do that as Miss B gets older!

Marie said...

Beautiful stories. I love how you handled the kids' curiousity and recognized that it was not meanness but genuiune curiousity. My favorite part, though? Kayla telling the little boy to say car and the game continuing with Kayla as equal peer! It makes me think that Kayla is aware of her differences but not ashamed. That's what I want for Jack. I want him to know that it is okay that he is different.