studies show that 1 in every 54 children born in the united states falls somewhere on the spectrum for autism; my awesome autistic is one of them.
a brief history
just before his second birthday, my suspicions began to arise as I watched all the kids his age do things he wasn’t doing – despite how much he was being taught. he knew maybe four words/phrases – yes, no, please, thank you – but mostly gestured or grunted/moaned/whined to express his wants, needs and overall feelings. at his two year well-care child check up, I asked the pediatrician if it was possible to set up a screening for big A. I wanted to be vigilant and get ahead of whatever the outcome may be (at the time, my thoughts were Asperger’s) but, after a pre-screening, they summed it up as a delay due to lack of peer interaction. I never put big A in preschool so he was always cared for by adults, so at the time the diagnosis made sense to me – I wish I had sought a second opinion.
my baby boy struggled over the next four years to communicate with others, although we did get up to three word broken sentences/phrases. even when he started kindergarten, he would only speak to adults, it was very rare he spoke to his classmates. in the spring semester, just before his sixth birthday, big A was officially tested by the school and their team of specialists and was diagnosed with mild ASD. I was happy to finally have an answer, but frustrated that my concerns had been dismissed in earlier years.
at our first IEP, just before big A wrapped his kindergarten year, we set a list of goals and developed a plan to get my son the assistance he needed. every specialist involved provided me with packets, pamphlets, programs and facilities to get acquainted with his condition and the tools we would implementing moving forward. big A’s IEP plan went into affect at the beginning of his first grade year, and by the end of the school year, my baby had made friends and was speaking in 6-8 word sentences.
four tips that may help inspire your nonverbal child to speak:
leapfrog was a godsend
leapfrog is one of the most popular companies centered around early child development! shape, color, letter and number recognition is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the knowledge that can be attained from their products. when I realized big A’s vocabulary had halted, I purchased the LeapPad Academy Kid’s Learning Tablet (link below) as a Christmas gift for my sweet boy. equipped with pre-loaded apps, this tablet was the beginning of big A’s verbal successes. after only a few short months, he was recognizing shapes
wallykazam and super why!
these two shows set the foundation for big A’s improvement with letter and word enunciation. it was rare that he would talk, but when he did, it was almost unrecognizable to someone who didn’t know him and was familiar with his ways of communication. for those who are unfamiliar, wallykazam is a television show on Nick Jr. about a troll and his pet dragon (big A loves magic and dragons so he paid attention to this show because of his interest in the characters represented) that teaches letter sounds and how to put those letters together to make three to four letter words. it’s only a plus that the show also teaches rhyming words, peer interaction, emotional understanding and acceptance, as well as problem solving. super why!, a PBS original series, takes all the fundamentals of wallykazam and pushes children to take the next step – sentence formation and the power to read! (Wyatt’s – the protagonist- catchphrase). although the plot could use some improvement, the show remains an amazing learning tool for all our children! with a more advanced take on problem solving and word building, super why! hones in on sentence structure and beginner’s reading skills accompanied by visual representation so that the children have a better understanding of why a sentence does/ does not make sense.
although big A never took this route, I have seen the successes of sign language first hand with children who are completely nonverbal. sign language is a great way to communicate with your awesome autistic who is not yet ready for their voice to be heard. although some people believe that learning sign language will hinder nonverbal children from ever speaking, studies have shown that autistic children are more visual learners than auditory learners. introducing your child(ren) to ASL gives them a form of communication that is easier for them to comprehend and, because the brain processes visual and auditory language the same way, makes it an easy transition when they’re ready to take the next step.
abc mouse/ adventure academy
abc mouse (geared for ages 2-8) and adventure academy (for ages 8-13) was the greatest gift I ever received for my sweet boy. I was terrified to send him to any daycare or preschool where I lived because the stories and reviews I read about were horrific. where we lived for most of his early childhood was not a place keen on education or patience, I never believed it was safe for him to be under the care of someone who did not truly love and understand him. so I resorted to educating him myself with the help of his caregiver on the days that I worked. for all the families who don’t trust daycare facilities in their area, are still struggling from the financial hardships from Covid-19 or just prefer to be at the head of your awesome autistic’s education – these programs may be worth looking into. each site allows the child(ren) to create their own character, in addition to choosing a class pet. they earn points for lessons completed, which was a positive incentive for big A because he thrives on a rewards system based learning style. set up exactly like an on-screen classroom, the children are introduced to the primary subjects – math, reading, social studies and science. although the specificity of the subjects vary by age, both programs formulate activities and lesson plans that provide all the necessary information to move on to the next level when they are ready.
the last year has been a struggle for over half of the population around the world, and in correlation, paid subscriptions for services such as abc mouse and adventure academy (links below) saw a drastic decline in membership as the world suffered personal and financial hardships. although both services did offer additional discounts to their programs, it was still difficult for families to allocate funds for these and other educational services. with many parents now transitioning back into the workplace, these sites have continued to offer multiple payment plans (monthly, quarterly and annually) to accommodate every families financial needs!
the possibilities are endless with our awesome autistics! I hope that the information provided above will put your child(ren) on a path of improved communication. and if not, don’t be alarmed or worried, there are so many resources available to our families. feel free to keep checking back for additional information, or conduct your own research to find the option that works best for you.
lyn and big A