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Monday, January 31, 2011

What Can He do?

Sometimes when people drop by, they look at Bow and maybe they even say "hi" to him, but then they turn to me and ask: "What can he do? Can he wave goodbye? Can he blow a kiss?"

 Well, it's not what can he do. It's what he wants to do. There's something about questions like this that makes them hard to answer: the unspoken premises on which they are based. The assumption that if Bow doesn't do something, then he can't. Or the even more deeply embedded presumption, that if he does "things", he does them on command, because he has been trained to do them.

How many parents of talking children have faced the same dilemma: can your child say "mamma"? they are asked. With the implication that if the child can say it, he will do so right now, like a trained performer, instead of a spontaneous user of language.

Bow can spell. He writes what he wants to write, when he wants to write it. He does kiss me sometimes, but not because he has been asked to. It is usually for one of two reasons: because he feels I am sad, and he's trying to cheer me up, or he's done something bad, and he's trying to apologize.

Bow gestures a lot. He shows me when he thinks I should leave, by taking my hand and leading me to the door. He shows me that he wants to spell, by taking my  hand and  leading me to the glass. He takes my hand to draw my attention and points things out to me. The purpose? Always communication. Never to put on a show.

Today, when someone asked what he could do, after they left, Bow took me to the glass and spelled: "Tell them not to talk like I am stupid."

I wish I could.


  1. I used to be annoyed as a kid when people talked to me like I should act, or do something a certain way. Bow did the right thing.

  2. Thanks, JewelandtheSun. Glad you understand how Bow feels!