Thursday, March 31, 2011

Y is for Yellow

My daughter knew her colors long before she could talk. "Bring me the yellow ball, Sweetie," and she would go get the yellow ball choosing among perhaps four or six other colors. It wasn't a big surprise to me, then, that when she did start adding words to her vocabulary (well after age 2) that among the first words added were colors, or her version of colors. For a long time she called orange "juice", but this post is not about orange, or juice. Yellow was among the first ten words that she could say. At the time I just thought she was so smart to know her colors already (and she is smart, don't get me wrong) but I had no idea that it was atypical for a child to add adjectives to their vocabulary before nouns. There is a reason that normal speech develops nouns first...

Yellow was clearly one of her favorite colors, too, so we often bought toys and trinkets that were yellow. A yellow ball, a yellow chair, a yellow helicopter, a yellow plane, a yellow plate. Yellow is also one of my husband's favorite colors, so there were already a good number of yellow objects in our home. Our four main rooms are various bright shades of yellow with white trim. If it were a submarine, you could break into a Beatles song here. It's a nice cheery, energizing color, and we all enjoy it.

The only problem was that my daughter started asking for things by saying "yellow" instead of using the names of the objects, since she didn't know those yet, or at least couldn't express them yet. This was a step up from the previous phase in which she would walk around imitating a fire engine siren. "Ah-uh-ah-uh-ah-uh-ah-uh..." meant "I want something." And because she might not indicate by pointing or gesturing what exactly she wanted it was a bit of a guessing game. Our theory is that she heard the sirens going by our house (we live on a fairly busy intersection) and she knew that we always paid attention to the sirens, so she figured that she would make that noise whenever she needed our attention. It worked, but it got old.

"Yellow" got old, too. Which "yellow" did she want? Was it the circle from the shape sorter (one of her favorite security objects) or the ball? The plate perhaps, or maybe the car? If we guessed more than a few objects wrong we were headed into tantrum territory, and there were probably twenty objects to choose from. I became an expert at the guessing game, using who knows what subtle cues and routines to figure out what "yellow" was wanted now. I also stopped adding yellow objects to the collection. Favorite color or no, this was becoming ridiculous.

This guessing game was one of the reasons I decided not to just listen to the doctor who was telling me not to worry, that she would start talking soon enough. "Some kids just talk later." Fine, but when you're seeing frustration because of the communication gap, that's a sign there's something wrong. Without really knowing what I was doing, but by pure grace getting at least pieces of it right I started spending a good chunk of each day trying to help my daughter add words - nouns especially - to her vocabulary. We spent a year in this mode until I went even further beyond the doctor's advice and sought a speech evaluation from our school district.

And so she taught me, early on, to listen to her more than I listened to any expert. She taught me that frustration can be a great motivator, and that there are subtleties to communication that most of the world takes for granted...when the system is challenged we value anew how truly miraculous it all is.

Yellow is still right up there with the child's favorite colors. When most girls her age prefer pink and purple she still often chooses yellow. It always brings back now fond memories of the early days when yellow really meant everything to her.

Jenny Matlock
I am linking this post with Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday blogfest. Go here to see all of the other creative posts starting with the letter Y. And many thanks to Jenny for hosting.

6 comments:

Judie said...

For years our granddaughter said "lellow" instead of yellow. It was frustrating to us because she could say other "Y" words perfectly. I never understood why that word was so difficult for her!

taylorsoutback said...

Nice post with some really interesting "Y" observations! Yellow has always been on of my own favorite colors, but it has to be a warm shade - butterscotch, banana, egg yolk kind of yellow...

Morning said...

delicate yellow you have there.

lovely thoughts on your girl.

Donnie said...

Yellow was a good choice for Y today and your little girl sounds so sweet. Have a wonderful day.

Splendid Little Stars said...

Wow! That is so interesting!
On the yellow note, yellow is my twin goddaughters' (almost 6) favorite color. My mother loved yellow. Yellow is the name of a good song.

Jenny said...

I still ove the way my Grands said yellow as little girls...Lellow, in a lilting little happy voice.

Thanks for a fun stop this week on our journey through Alphabe-Thursdays letter "Y".

This was a totally charming post.

A+

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