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2016, September: 100 Words

Declan reached 100 words today. (Realistically, he probably reached this number much sooner, since there are undoubtedly words that he uses at daycare that I haven't heard yet.) It's been a fascinating journey to experience. At his 15-month doctor appointment he had maybe five words. Now, at 19 months, he has at least 100. His speech has exploded with new words arriving almost every day. He knows colors, shapes, animals, vehicles... and SpongeBob, embarrassingly. (The full list of his first 100 words is below.)

100 words is a lot, but a long way from being enough for effective communication. This progression, and Declan's frustration when he cannot make us understand what he wants, has me thinking a lot about language development and about how many words would be enough?

I've followed the Nieder family blog/Facebook page for many years now. I discovered them long before I had a kid, long before we even thought that children might be in our future. I don't remember how I found them and I don't have any personal connections to their situation, but it's a fascinating story to follow about a really amazing family. Maya - the daughter - has undiagnosed developmental delays that leave her mostly nonverbal (though her speech continues to increase). She uses an iPad with the app Speak For Yourself to communicate. The Nieder family tried a huge range of options to help her communicate before they discovered and adopted Speak for Yourself - and it's been quite the battle. Maya doesn't necessarily perform well during assessments (I can easily imagine this being true of Declan, or of almost any young child) and many professionals insisted that the Speak for Yourself app would be too complicated, too advanced, too many words. They wanted her to start with something simpler. With far, FAR fewer words. Maya's mom, Dana (the author of the blog), has been a tireless and inspirational advocate for presuming competence and all the words all the time. Maya shouldn't have to wait until she demonstrates she can use the words to be given access to them. One evaluator wanted to give Maya a device that would allow her to access to 32 words at a time. 32. Each set of 32 words would be themed (lunch, art, zoo, etc.) and would be predetermined by the evaluator. When I first read that post, many years ago, Dana had me convinced that 32 words at a time was unacceptable, but it's only now - with Declan's 100 words - that I realize just how unacceptable that would be. Can you imagine giving someone Declan's 100 words - the words he has demonstrated that he knows - and asking them to communicate? No. That would be crazy. Or imagine that we selected the 32 words for him to access/learn on our recent trip to Yellowstone. We would have included hot spring, geyser, canyon, waterfall, bison, etc. Would we have included gravel, nails in the boardwalk, signpost, ground squirrel, or huge black raven? Almost definitely not, but those were the things he was interested in.

The Speak for Yourself app has grown with Maya. Words are added as needed, as thought of, as they come up, and at Maya's request. She isn't limited by a set number of words that are available. It really is an incredible tool - and Maya is an incredible girl. I'm so happy I found them on Facebook and Dana's posts mean so much more now that I'm a parent, too.

Declan's first 100 words:
  1. Daddy
  2. Mummy
  3. Tractor
  4. More
  5. Cracker
  6. Please
  7. Thank you
  8. Farmer
  9. Truck
  10. Sleep
  11. Milk
  12. Bottle
  13. Rag
  14. Kitty
  15. Dog
  16. Eat
  17. Jeep
  18. Star
  19. Wheel/Wheelbarrow
  20. Bumble bee
  21. Baby
  22. Book
  23. Ball
  24. Shoes
  25. Fish
  26. Car
  27. Apple
  28. Banana
  29. No
  30. Stop
  31. Blue
  32. Orange
  33. Yellow
  34. Fan
  35. Cheese
  36. Teeth
  37. Up
  38. Down
  39. Put back/put it back
  40. Bye
  41. Night night
  42. Bird
  43. Purple
  44. Bowl
  45. Bear
  46. Sponge Bob
  47. Jello
  48. Brown
  49. Hi/hello
  50. Turtle
  51. Black
  52. Red
  53. Bubbles
  54. Bath
  55. Potato
  56. Sheep
  57. Help
  58. Giraffe
  59. Nose
  60. Eyes
  61. Push
  62. Pull
  63. Green
  64. Outside
  65. Home
  66. Jump
  67. Spider
  68. Ketchup
  69. Get out
  70. Airplane
  71. Mouth
  72. Clock
  73. Picture
  74. Step
  75. Chicken
  76. Duck
  77. Bear
  78. Egg
  79. White
  80. Pink
  81. Circle
  82. Triangle
  83. Hat
  84. Walk
  85. Run
  86. Sock
  87. Hot
  88. Flower
  89. Grandma
  90. Bicycle
  91. Axe
  92. Rock
  93. Heart
  94. Strawberry
  95. What is it?
  96. Glasses
  97. Water
  98. Mouse
  99. Spoon
  100. Fork

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