When you have a language-impaired or speech-delayed child, you find that you want to reward any appropriate use of language, but sometimes that takes you down a road that's even more difficult than simply insulting someone's ugly dog.
Last Wednesday I had an interview to lead a project that I'd be very interested in doing (yes, the job search continues). I was, as might be expected, decked out in interview drag . . . suit, hose, pumps, the full hope-to-offend-no-one interview look. I looked considerably more turned out than Sweet M. is accustomed to seeing me.
When I got home and took off my coat, she looked me up and down and said, "Ooooo, hubba hubba!"
In a similar vein, about eight or nine months ago I was watching on the close-circuit TV at the speech language lab at NYU, where M. has speech-therapy twice a week. The student clinician asked M. if she'd like her to read a story, and M. replied, with the full prosody of Austin Powers repartee:
"Oooo, yeah ba-by, that's what I'm talking about."
The student clinician blushed at least two shades and I nearly fell off my chair laughing.
For the next couple of months, any question that could be answered in the affirmative would, as likely as not, get the full "Ooooo, yeah, shag me baby" tone. I started to tell her that just a "yes" would be a better answer, but the Autisn Power prosody continued.
M. seems to be learning English the way I learn a foreign language. She learns set phrases, complete with inflection, and then deploys them as appropriately as she can. So it's almost as though she's a foreigner, prone to all the blunders and faux paux any tourist might make. I'm not sure where she heard Austin Powers--maybe she saw a TV commercial--but this acoustic mimicry is one of her autism powers.
The trouble, of course, from a parent's point of view, is how to avoid having an already seductive-looking child speak in terms that are dripping with sexual innuendo that she can't possibly yet understand, while, at the same time, encouraging her to communicate.