Update on Update on Questions

Remember last week’s update on questions? Specifically, my update on the fact that Martin doesn’t yet ask questions?

Time for an update on the update on questions. Martin has added to his repertoire three new requests for information.

The first two are rote questions. When we’re on the subway and stop at any station he doesn’t recognize, he says, “What street is this?” Our conversations shuffle along with the train:

Martin: “What street is this?”

Me: “Spring Street.”

Martin: “It’s Spring Street!”

Me: “Sure is.”

Martin, as the train leaves the station: “Bye-bye, Spring Street.”

Me: “That’s it for Spring Street.”

Martin: “What street is this?”

Me: “It’s Canal Street.”

Martin: “It’s Canal Street!”

Me: “Looks that way to me.”

You get the idea.

Also, Martin is routinely asking, “Where is _____?” This morning at breakfast he inquired, “Where is the flute?” Which would have been really great, if I’d had any idea where the &*$@ the toy flute was. As it was, I had only disappointment to offer.

The third type of request is meant to be a question, but Martin doesn’t have the form correct yet. When he wants to know the initial letter of a word, we have an exchange along these lines:

Martin: “Bowl starts with a . . . .” (His voice trails off. He doesn’t get the inflection correct for a question, neither the Spanish inflection nor the English.)

Me: “Oh! Do you mean to ask me, ‘What letter does bowl start with?’?”

Martin: “What letter starts with bowl?”

Me: “‘What letter does bowl start with?’ Bowl starts with a b.”

Martin: “Bowl starts with a b!”

In summary, we have experienced progress since my update on questions. Maybe all I need to do for progress is to post an update? In that case, more updates coming. Soon.

Update on Questions

Martin doesn’t ask questions yet. Questions are non-linear language, and (as I’ve discovered) they are complex. So far, Martin uses only imperative and declarative speech. For example, if he can’t find his flute, instead of asking, “Where’s the flute?”, he repeats, “I want the flute. I want the flute,” until someone helps him find the flute.

I’ve got some yes/no requests from him, mostly by rote. We have a lot of exchanges like this:

“I want more tea.”

“It would be nice if you would ask me.”

“Can I have more tea?”

I don’t really count those requests as questions, per se, because they are (1) scripted and (2) not seeking information.

In the past week, I’ve witnessed the first glimmers that we might be turning the corner (and I hope I’m not getting ahead of myself). Tuesday, as he and I were walking together, Martin spotted a jet in the sky. “A plane!” he blurted (as usual), pointing (a newer development). I replied, “I see it, too.” Then Martin said, “Where is the plane going?” I’m not certain Martin was really looking for an answer; he seemed almost uninterested even while inquiring. And I wondered whether, “Where is the plane going?” wasn’t a scripted question, repeating part of a school exercise. Nevertheless, I made a big deal of responding. Saying I wished I knew. Observing the size of the plane and guessing the possible destinations. Trying to make Martin feel rewarded for (possibly) asking a question.

Did it work? Maybe. Wednesday afternoon Martin and I were to meet Adrian at the airport, to fly home. (We’d made a family trip to Chicago, where Adrian had some work to complete before coming to O’Hare.) Martin hadn’t slept well the night before and was restless, so I made a big deal about meeting Adrian and how happy we would be. Almost as soon as we entered the airport, before we reached the self-check-in machines, Martin asked, “Where is Daddy?” He did not look directly at me while saying those words, but this time the question seemed authentic. Martin expected his father, and upon not finding him, wondered what the deal was. Immediately I knelt to catch Martin’s eye and said, “Let’s check in and clear security. I bet we’ll find him at the gate.”

I’ll report on more questions as they come. I’m looking forward to a day when Martin asks questions non-stop, at which time I’ll post on the topic How Do I Shut My Kid Up?