Al Jr. and Alia babble. Incessantly.
Before some well-meaning “allism parent” lights into me about using That Word, let me explain. Al Jr. and Alia’s speech therapist has defined “babbling” for us as “speaking without intellectual or emotional content.” This is, apparently, a rampant problem with allistic children – in fact, it’s why the kids’ pediatrician referred us to a speech therapist in the first place.
There are, the kids’ speech therapist tells us, two types of babbling: infant babbling and “functional” babbling. Infant babbling consists of strings of noises that don’t resemble words. “Functional” babbling consists of intelligible words, but without importance (either emotional or cognitive). Neither one “means” anything, and child psychologists are still baffled as to how allistic children can babble so often and yet manage to develop the ability to communicate emotional or cognitive importance in their words in other ways. (Normal children, as we all know, frequently don’t talk until they’re almost three; some don’t talk at all, but both groups express importance when they do begin to communicate.)
Infant babbling, according to the speech therapist, is a strong indicator of abnormal speech development consistent with allism, and kids that do a great deal of infant babbling almost always grow up to do a great deal of functional babbling as well.
I was hesitant at first to assume that any particular thing my children said was babbling. After all, who am I to presume that I “just know” whether the words coming out of my children’s mouths include emotional content or not? But…wow. The things that come out of my kids’ mouths.
I’m not saying that normal children can’t babble. It’s just that normal children typically don’t babble, and they certainly don’t do it at the rate allistic children do. I’m actually surprised that babbling isn’t a diagnostic criterion for allism on its own.