Thursday, 13 August 2015

Tabby McTat

Two nights ago, I captured a video of Adam doing the most amazing thing: reading aloud.  Now whether or not he is actually reading the words, or just remembering the pattern of the story and knowing when to flip the pages based on the pictures, I honestly don't know.  But either way, for a child with this many disabilities and particularly such an extreme language delay, this is truly incredible.

Remember that although Adam is four years old chronologically, behaviourally he is around eighteen months old and in terms of language development, his child psychologist very recently put him at around twelve months old; there are so many things he cannot do, particularly around communication....and yet he can do this.

Adam's favourite storybooks are virtually all written by Julia Donaldson and while he's moved through most of her library, his current favourites are The Smartest Giant in Town, Squash and a Squeeze and the story he reads in this video, Tabby McTat.  This book tells the heartwarming story of a busker and his cat who are separated from each other after the busker's hat is stolen and he is injured giving chase.  Despite mutually searching for each other, the busker and his cat cannot find each other and so Tabby McTat finds a new home with two ladies named Prunella and Pat.  Despite his happiness with his people and the advent of a wife and kittens, Tabby McTat misses his Busker and one day goes on a journey, searching for him.  

The story is told with Julia Donaldson's trademark blend of rhythm and rhyme and I believe it is this that "works" for Adam - even when he cannot make out the precise words, he remembers the rhythm of the story and seeks to mimic the exact intonation in which we read it to him.  At first you could be forgiven for not knowing what he is saying considering his speech is so blurred, but if you know the words of the story, some of which are:

Tabby McTat was a busker's cat
with a meow that was loud and strong
The two of them sang of this and that
And people threw coins in the old checked hat
And this was their favourite song:

Me-eew and the old guitar
How perfectly, perfectly happy we are
Me-eew and the old guitar
How perfectly happy we are*

...then you will be able to start picking up what he is saying.  The original video was around six minutes long and because there are a fair few places where he's just mumbling, I've just picked out the parts where you can tell what he is saying and have added subtitles to make it clearer.

Now I'll be the first to admit that this isn't going to be a Pulitzer award winning speech anytime soon, but for those of you who know the struggles Adam has faced in his development and the uncertainty we still live with about his future development, then you will perhaps understand why I find this to be so exciting.  

The one thing we should never lose is hope.

*Words taken from "Tabby McTat", written by Julia Donaldson, Illustrated by Axel Scheffler, Alison Green Books, 2010