"You hurt you!"
It was Theo, tattling how his older brother has hurt him. He slightly slumped to a chair nearby after Thymon bumped into him accidentally.
"You meant, he hurt you?" I pointed my index finger to his brother when I uttered the pronoun he and put my hand on his chest when I mentioned you.
"Yes, yes, Kuya hurt you!" Theo was nodding, relieved that I got it.
"Theo, I used you because I am referring to you, but if you're referring to yourself, you use me. You say, yes, Kuya hurt me."
"Yes, Kuya hurt me!" He repeated. Theo has mastered the craft of repetition to his advantage.
I hugged him and asked his older brother to apologize and hug each other too.
Theo's most evident struggle this year is the use of pronouns. He has yet to figure out the perfect formula for the proper use of you and me and him and her.
And as it turned out, we are in the same boat. I have yet to figure out as well the perfect formula to helping my son crack the code to learning pronouns, special needs-style.
How do I explain the use of pronouns, in the simplest yet effective way possible, to someone whose native tongue is English?
My sons were born and raised here in the United States. Thymon, the firstborn, learned the English language just like how he learned to crawl and walk. It was pretty natural. And so, this pronoun-related challenge was a new phenomenon to me.
While my husband and I grew up in the Philippines, the use of pronouns was something we learned early in school. I could not remember how my grade school teachers introduced this part of speech, but I am sure, I knew how to use this cluster when I was my sons' age, regardless of accent.
In a meeting with Theo's speech and language pathologist (SLP) and special needs coordinator, it occurred to me that the pronoun-related challenge was not an isolated phenomenon at all. It was typical among kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
A sigh of relief from me: Theo was not alone. We are not alone traversing this reality. Every family impacted by ASD has to learn how to live with and embrace this challenge.
We revisited Theo's Individualized Education Program (IEP) and devised long-term and short-term objectives to help him make sense of the world of pronouns.
According to the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, children with ASD's struggle with the use of pronouns, like me and you, has long been a puzzle to researchers.
Issues with pronouns are not related to an inability to comprehend language, according to the journal. Researchers suspect that it may be an indicative of a third-person view of the world.
For Theo's SLP, it could be because children with ASD are highly structured, and the switching from you and me, him and her, depending on who is talking, could be too unstructured for their brains.
Theo had mind-blowing strides this year.
In our year-ender visit with his dentist a few days ago, the service provider could not help but revel on Theo's development.
"He is the most well-adjusted kid with autism I've ever had." I could see and feel the joy, amazement and sincerity in Theo's pediatric dentist. He has a nephew in the spectrum as well.
Theo has been expressing himself more and consistently. He could now sustain a conversation, a major challenge when he was younger. There is no trace of social awkwardness in him - he relates and interacts well with his classmates, another concern a few years ago. And his teacher believed that aside from numbers, Theo is also exceptional in arts and music.
Theo beat multiple odds in a year. And his continuous development is a testament to God's faithfulness.
And while this year has been hectic for me, juggling between attending graduate school full-time, writing commitments, Theo's IEP meetings and medical service provider visits, God never fails to make his presence felt.
Time and time again, He would show up in my most tiring day, encouraging and reminding me about His goodness.
"Mom, Kuya hurt you again." I could hear the boys' skirmish from the play area.
God indeed showed up.
Except for pronouns.
Kuya is a Filipino term used to show respect to an older male family member, primarily to a brother, a cousin, or a family friend. It may also be used for people who are not necessarily relatives but are older.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons: Pia Ranslet
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