Did My Three-Year-Old Just Call Me a Moron?

I stared at my daughter in disbelief and confusion and then looked over at my husband.

“Did she just call me a moron?”

Tyler laughed and said that while it sounded like it, where would she have heard that word? Which was a good point. We do not expose the kids to that kind of language and since they are homeschooled, it is not like they are hearing it out in the world and bringing it home.

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Let me give you some context, about a year ago the kids were all playing and one of the kids called another one “stupid”. I was rocked and devastated, which I know for a lot of Mom’s is laughable. I texted some of my closest Mom friends and my sister heartbroken that my kids would use such a word in the context of calling each other that. Why was I so shook up by it that I can recall it so instantly? My kids had never spoken mean words to each other before. We had issues with violent fighting when the kids first came home because of the violence they had witnessed and experienced and we had some cursing when they came home but never attacking each other verbally. I felt like some glass barrier had been shattered when that word was uttered. I spoke with the kid who said it and explained how mean it was and how much it can hurt people’s feelings and (since it was my empathetic kiddo) he has never said it again.

So Alizé using the word “moron” would be completely out of character for our house and for our kids. I asked her a few more times what she was trying to say.

For those who do not know, Alizé has something called Apraxia of Speech. This means that while she understands language and can think what she wants to say, there is a disconnect between what she is thinking and the sounds that come out of her mouth. For a while all her communication was in something we came to call “Zé-Zé Speak” because of the garbled and confusing nature of the sounds, it really was it’s own language. It has only been in the last few months that she has begun (thanks to a lot of therapy) to communicate in a way that we can understand what she is saying, and even still she often uses approximations, or words that sound like the word she is trying to say. For instance, she struggles saying the word “milk” so she calls it “nilk”.

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This means that when Alizé wants to express a new idea, it can sometimes take a minute to figure out what she is trying to say if the words do not fit. After my shock I realized there was no way she was calling me a moron, she isn’t a teenager yet. So what was she trying to tell me?

I took her in the other room and chatted with her for a while and eventually figured out what she was trying to say was “a new one”. She wanted to change her pants and wanted “a new one”, a new pair of pants. I went to retrieve her pants and chuckled to myself that asking for a pair of pants sounded like a insult. Then my laughter died as I realized that had she been with someone else, out with someone or at church or- really fill in the blank, people would have taken the “moron” part at face value and missed what she needed and possibly thought she was being unkind. The times she will have to fight to have her meaning made clear to others breaks my heart. She has a lot to say, this little princess, and I know she will be hurt and frustrated by her mouth not saying what she  means to say. Her speech will likely continue to improve but she may likely always have to struggle with it. Once again, I wish I could wave a wand and make the world kinder and slower for her or make it all easier for her. Since I have no magic powers all we can do is help her with her therapies, and show her how to laugh in the face of the inevitable bungling of her message from time to time.

For more information on Apraxia please visit: The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Childhood Apraxia of Speech

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