Things are happening. Sentences are flowing, open-ended questions are being answered, I can see the gears turning in Ryan's head.
Before I can tell you the next part, I have to introduce a new character. Ryan has a new little friend named Jason. A very little friend: he's 2 1/2.
In a lot of ways Ryan and Jason are on the same level, but in other ways, Ryan likes to act like a big brother. The boys are adorable together. Often Jason is playing in the backyard when Ryan gets off the school bus. When Ryan sees Jason, he runs right to him and they start playing together (or sometimes just near each other) before Ryan has even taken off his backpack. Jason refers to Ryan as "my best friend;" Ryan is clearly happy to see Jason, but I've never heard him utter the boy's name.
And I like Jason's mother, so as the boys play, we're becoming friends as well.
So anyway, Ryan and Jason were playing in the backyard after school. Ryan had stepped off the bus with a fistful of tiny plastic sticks - they looked like pieces of some toy I've never seen. Ryan's teachers have taken to putting random toys in his hands to aid with the transition from school to the bus; once he came home with an assortment of 31 dinosaurs, trucks, and rubber duckies, but usually it's just two small toys.
As a typical 2 1/2 year old, Jason's impulse is to grab whatever Ryan has in his hands and run off with it. After Ryan showed Jason how to roll the sticks down a sloped sidewalk, Jason absconded with the sticks. Ryan went in pursuit, but by the time he caught up with Jason, three of the four sticks had disappeared forever between the patio squares.
Then magic happened.
Ryan stood at an appropriate distance from Jason, looked at him, and said, "Where did the sticks go, Jayden?"
(Yeah, that's not a typo. Jayden is the name of one of the boys in Ryan's class. Just go with me here.)
You get how big this is, right? Here's a recap of the magical parts:
1) Although he was annoyed that his friend had run off with his toy, Ryan didn't freak out. Using words was his first course of action.
2) He initiated a verbal exchange with another child. This is new and significant. Adults are much easier for Ryan to talk to because they are more patient and far more predictable.
3) He stood an appropriate distance from the person he was addressing, and he faced that person. On an average day, Ryan is more likely to speak quietly in a corner and then not understand why I'm not giving him what he wants.
4) He used a name in direct address. It happened to be the wrong name, but it was very close.
And as an addendum, when we established that the sticks were lost forever, Ryan didn't freak out. He accepted the loss and moved on, and continued to play with the child responsible for the sticks' disappearance.
Well played, kid. Well played.