Thursday, April 10, 2014

Charmaine Wants Tea, Please

The other night, I was over at Charmaine’s house. For those who don’t know who Charmaine is, I highly recommend you read this post before you continue. Don’t worry, I’ll wait for you until you get back...

Excellent, now that you’re all caught up we can continue.

The other night, I was over at Charmaine’s house. Her mum and her dad were there too, oh and for anyone who is wondering the chihuahua puppies have been born! 

That is one of the puppies in my hand. For a frame of reference, I can pick up the mama dog easily with one hand.

Sam, Charmaine’s oldest sister and Maria, one of the “acquired German daughters” (Charmaine’s live-in carer and OT for the year) had gone out for the night. It was quite pleasant a night. The four of us were relaxing with the television on. Dad was very tired after a long day at work, Mama was working on the computer, and my mind was elsewhere thinking about my German exam at university the next day while mindlessly stroking one of the dogs.

Then something very important happened.

I don’t even know how this happened. Charmaine and I weren't actively practicing any sign language or doing speech therapy. She wanted something, I could tell that much. She was asking her dad for a mobile phone and I knew that's what she meant, but given what she was signing, she could've been asking to phone someone.  So I turned to her and asked, using speech and sign: “Do you want one?”
She picked up on my signs and started to respond with signing for “I want”
But… suddenly we heard from her, clearly speaking: “I want”.

What was that?

Charmaine has a limited verbal vocabulary. She understands the world around her very well, and also knows what she would like to say very well but is afflicted with aphasia and apraxia of speech. Some of her words, with therapy and practice include: Charmaine, Mama, Papa, Sam, Maria, Lala (what she called her previous carer: to be fair, Claudia is a lot of phonemes), Tea, Fish, Shower, Thank You, Sorry, Oops! and a few others including my name. She also can say “How are you?” or if asked how she is she can respond with, “Fine, how are you?”. She also can say “I love you”. Her two most recent words are: why and awesome.

But suddenly, while signing, the speaking just tumbled out “I want”.

We were all silent and then Dad said: “Say it again, Charmaine”. There was almost a sense of disbelief. You could feel the anticipation hanging in the atmosphere.
“I want”
Well there was no disbelief then.
The cheers were immense; the celebration was huge.
“Charmaine say, “I want tea please” her Dad prompted
Without hesitation and clearly, Charmaine said it.
We filmed it. There was squealing. It feels like a piece of the puzzle has been put in and it has fit smoothly.
I messaged my own mother with the good news, my teacher from special school and my four closest friends. All of them appreciated this immense achievement and sent back messages ranging from "that's fantastic, Charmaine!" to "f***ing PHENOMENAL!!!!!"

Later that night, Charmaine actually wanted tea and she simply said as she always does “tea”, but after a quick reminder to say a sentence it happened again:
“I want tea, please”

It is a thrill to hear her speak.

And then she looked at me and said my name, and with a little bit of help said "want tea please", and I am never going to say no to tea!

That night, she could’ve had twenty cups of tea and nobody would’ve objected.

We talk about inchstones and we talk about milestones. This was a milestone.

Please, grab some tea and celebrate with Charmaine and me! Celebrate your own, your friend's or your children's milestones and inchstones with us! 

Charmaine and She Types Things: Charmaine, very proud of herself and Me, very, very proud of her.


  1. I think this was an immense Discovery! We are hoping that the sign language and the intensive inTime therapy (THANKS, TRACY FROM LINKS TO LEARNING) is the key in unlocking Charmaine this year. Well done to both of you. Keep it up! ��

  2. What a beautiful achievement! So happy for all of you! Congrats, Charmaine!