My son loves the iPhone. It’s small and full of games, music, videos. What’s not to love, right? How about the purpose for which it was named, i.e., using a phone. This has always been the last thing on my son’s mind.
When, Tootles was very young, he used to love the office phones because of all the buttons. He would pick up the phone and mimic Jessica to the letter, “Good Morning, Law Firm, this is Jessica. How can I help you?” he would say. It was adorable, and of course, we let him play.
At home, I would let him talk to Grandma or Grandpa to say “hi”. He would have to be prompted. His voice would either be too loud or soft and he really had no concept of an actual, live person being on the other end of the thing communicating with him. He would just say what he was told to say and then wander off to play with something.
Later, as he has gotten older, I let him answer the phone at home a time or two but these attempts consisted of him floundering to find the button to answer and then saying “Hello?”, ignoring the caller (his dad) and walking 10-12 feet to me and handing me the phone. Again, he would wander away.
So, the other night, Tootles had not eaten much all day. We were at home, me with my contacts out and sweats on. Daddy was on his way home. So, I had Tootles call his dad to ask for a Happy Meal (standard in our house). I showed him on my cell phone how to find Daddy and push the buttons to call. I told him to say “Hi Daddy”, so, naturally, while it was still ringing, he said, “Hi Daddy.”
On prompting, he repeated the greeting when the Daddy actually answered. Daddy said “hi” and asked how Tootles was. My son then launched into what he wanted. “Daddy to bring you a Happy Meal.” Once that message was conveyed, he said, “Goodbye Daddy,” and I hung up.
For really, the first time that I could tell, he got that Daddy was on the other end of the phone. He conveyed a message that brought him a meal. He understood the time frame of it coming in the future. These are things most of us take for granted. Yet, I had concerns about his comprehension of past and future events and the abstract concept of the phone which, at least, used to be, the most basic (to me) of communication devices.
My son has had his phone number memorized for about a year now, but so what? It’s just a group of random numbers for which he receive a reward when he recites them in correct order. It had no meaning beyond that for him. He did not know – as far as I knew – what “my phone number” meant. So, to test my theory, I got my cell phone and asked him how to call his phone number.
He found the app and looked at me, questioningly. I told him to touch the app. He got in and dialed his home number. I had him answer the ringing home phone but he did not do it before the answering machine (yes – I know – not voice mail) got it. He was confused a bit but did talk to me. He did not know how to hang up.
I’m pretty sure that if I was lying on the floor unconscious, he’d have no idea how to use the phone to get help. I asked him if Mommy was hurt, what he would do. He rocked the weight from one foot to the other, tilted his head a little and was confused. I asked again. This time he touched his head and said, “Ouch.” Then, he changed his mind and said, “Train,” his “code” word for pain.
Maybe teaching him will result in 100 phone calls to 9-1-1 for which I will end up being billed. But, I think, it will have to be done.
Do your children use the phone? When did they learn? Do they know how to call 9-1-1 and when? I’ve never seen someone post a way to do it. I’ve asked for a program in ABA and was told it will be added and that it is a very fun program to do.
Meanwhile, even though Tootles knows his name, he will still pick up the phone at the office or at home, and announce that he is Jessica, right before he asks how he can help you…