How do we know?
This month is National Poetry month and a good time to start thinking about figurative langaue because it can, "rain cats and dogs," in April. Often figurative language, or language which is NOT literal, is very challenging for people of all ages with speech and language challenges. I have found that the best place to start with figurative language is a good old fashioned, "Knock-Knock joke." At around age 4, kids start playing more with language because these kinds of jokes have a predictiable pattern, and they are funny because of semantics/word meaning, and /or because of word sounds. Often kids will try to make up their own, and they may get the pattern, but not the rest; that's funny too! My Favorite examples of these subtle language cues found in these jokes are,"Knock- knock," "Who's there?", "Lettuce," "Lettuce who?" , "Let Us in, it's cold outside." And "knock-Knock." "Who's there?" "Isabell, Isabell who?" , "Is the bell broken I've been here forever."
The next step in our journey to figurative langauge is the idiom, or saying such as "it's raining cats and dogs." We don't use these all the time, but they come up. The more remote the actual meaning is from the words, the more challenging it is for people of all ages. The more complex the sentence, the more passive the voice, the harder it is to find out from a story, who is speaking, what they are speaking about and what it all means.
How can you help?
Practice jokes and the "why" of things. Ask, "what's so funny?" and if they cannot find the complete sentence to tell you, say what you think, then ask again.
The next step on this journey is Sarcasm. Sarcasm is very hard for people with SCD (social communication disorders), facial expressions and humor which relys on word meaning can also be tricky. For people with auditory processing disorders and possibly some forms of dyslexia, they may miss phonological cues, making understanding the humor a challenges as well.
With a little help everyone can get what you mean.
Here are some interesting links you may want to check out.....