First Signs My Child was "Different"

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My son did not begin speaking until after he was two years old.  Since he was a preemie, I had worried about his development and was relieved when he finally began to speak. It wasn't long before my relief turned to wonder.

It wasn't long before my son starting pointing out letters and saying their names: A, B, C, D.  He was always intrigued by letters and numbers and starting grabbing my finger and leading me to letters and pointing to them.

He wanted me to tell him what the letters were called. I was fascinated.

Being a curious person, I started doing experiments to see what this little guy could do. I discovered that he could recognize "McDonald's" and "Burger King" and "Cheerios."  Recognizing environmental print like this is an early stage of reading, although it's not really reading.  It's more like recognizing a symbol than reading or even recognizing words. However, it does help children make a connection between written symbols (words) and what the symbols represent.

One day, we were driving to a friend's house a couple hours away from home.  As we were waiting for a red light near our destination, we heard a little voice from the back seat, "Bank."  Bank?  Where did that come from? I looked across the street and there was a bank.  We didn't have a branch of that bank at home, so that couldn't have been recognition of environmental print.

When we got back home, I could resist "testing" my son. How did he know the word "bank"? Were there other words he could recognize? I started writing down short words and asking him what they were. I wrote down  M-O-M and showed it to him. He said, "mom." I was stunned. I had no idea how that child knew that!

He was a big fan of Sesame Street, so maybe he saw that word on the show. Still, I was pretty amazed that he would be able to recognize it, assuming that's where he learned the word. I wrote down some other short, common words: "dad," "dog," "cat." He knew them all.

My son was just two years and three months old and had been talking for less than three months! Now he was recognizing words. From that time on, my son would say words out loud that he saw on magazines, books, signs - anywhere he saw a word he recognized. Other people would notice and be surprised and a little amazed. They would say, "You must have read to him a lot." No, actually I didn't. It wasn't for lack of trying. He simply wouldn't sit still.

One of my fantasies of parenthood had been to sit my child on my lap and read to him. I bought all the popular, well-known, highly recommended books for toddlers I would choose one, pick up my son, put him on my lap, and start to read to him. I was sure the stories and the pictures in the books would keep him interested. Nope. He would squirm and wiggle until I finally put him back on the floor. He was completely uninterested in being read to. He hadn't learned to read these words from me.

Clearly, I had a different kind of child on my hands.

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