Water Mum!

My oldest boy L who is 6 and has autism, has always liked water. A bath was always a good way to calm him down, get him engaged in activities, to connect and have fun.

happy boy in water

happy boy in water

His journey towards language and communication has been a long and winding road. He is not visually motivated (he has a cortical vision impairment) so Makaton (a simple sign language), PECS (picture exchange communication system) and even the iPad (needs no description!) have not been at all interesting to him. He can not interpret a drawing or visual representation of an action or concept.

For a long time he babbled away making speech-like sounds as a baby does. I used to wish for an interpreter. I’m pretty switched on to language development, but there just did not seem to be any meaning or intention associated with the sounds he was making. Still… I encouraged, I read to him, I researched, I did Hanen training, I talked and talked to him, I played endless games of peekaboo and ready, set, …. and always left plenty of time for him to process and respond.

Slowly, slowly he started to use a few words here and there. Snippets of songs would emerge and then fade away, leaving me wondering if he ever really sang them. About a year ago I wrote about a moment we had where I felt like we’d actually had a very brief, but oh so precious first conversation.

The next twelve months were like living in an echo chamber. Echolalia is something many autistic people have as a part of their speech pattern or language development process. Simply put, it is echoing back what has been said. So if you ask a question: do you want an apple? the response will be ‘do you want an apple?’. There are many permutations of this form of communication. Some people can recite the entire dialogue from a movie, but not my boy! Oh no! He would find one word or phrase and stick to it with a passion.

Him: What? Me: What? Him: What? etc.

Him: What? Me: What? Him: What? etc.

His two main words? Mummy (I thank you for that my beautiful boy) and toilet. Yes…toilet was a word that was repeated endlessly throughout the day. Some days it was funny. Other days I felt like I was going crazy. But I was always, always grateful for the fact that he was actually using language. A somewhat limited repertoire, but using actual words.

He’s had an incredible spurt of language development in the last couple of months. It’s gone hand in hand with some absolutely horrific, nerve jarring screaming, screeching and general stimmy noisemaking (see my Yoko Ono post). But he just keeps coming out with new words, new phrases, labels, requests and yes…actual sentences.

Language UP, Frustrations DOWN.

He still reverts to old habits, but when he is reminded that using words is an option, he will give it a go.

So today, when we were driving along this morning, we crossed over one of the main connecting bridges in our beautiful river city and from the back seat I hear ‘Water,  mum’. Me: YES! Water!! Can you see the water? Good boy!!! You are using your words! and lots of effusive praise etc.

Water, Mum!

Water, Mum!

This afternoon, crossing back over the river (different bridge) ‘Water, mum, water!’ Me: WOW! YES! there’s the water AGAIN! blah, blah, blah. Then we crossed over a smaller creek which leads to the river: ‘Water, mum!’ (I think you know what I said).

It’s a real milestone. A genuine, corner turning milestone for this little guy who has faced so many challenges in life already. I’m so very, very excited for him.

Also, and this is big news too, he can now officially jump. YES!

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9 thoughts on “Water Mum!

    • There are days when I am incredibly grateful for the amazing qualities of water. I know that if things are getting tough it’s an instant calming, organizing and relaxing activity for my boy. You obviously get it too! Thanks for your comment!

  1. That is fantastic!!!! I have a water boy too and wow does it get him excited. So much so I had to make big bubble baths so he would just sit and exam the bubbles so we could settle him down to wash him. I love how you describe that the language began as a trickle and now you are getting lots of spontaneous bursts! He can jump too now!!!! I know how big that is…my guy can jump on a trampoline but still working on the ground jump. Sigh. Oh and HANEN….I did the MORE THAN WORDS program. How did you like it? I felt it that there strategies really helped fine tune a lot of strategies for us and give my son the little push he needed and expand our repertoire.

    • Sounds like we’ve been on very similar journeys Cyn! More Than Words was really wonderful and I still use those techniques today. He wasn’t talking at all when I started that training. The filming was hilarious. I realised how much jibberish I was going on with – there was no way he could understand what I was saying! I just focussed on getting one word ‘more’ – we got there! And he has come so far since then.

      • MORE THAN WORDS really got the ball rolling for us too. I especially like how you learn how to identify the stage your child is at as well as strategies that make sense in your daily life. The videos were hilarious weren’t they? I cringe at the first ones lol. I also learned that I need to film him bit also have someone film us so I can take a closer look at what he is doing as well as what I am doing. The Hanen Centre is out of Toronto Canada and we were lucky enough to have Fern Sussman who wrote MORE THAN WORDS audit our group because she is updating the program. She is a wonderful insightful person and if I ever get to talk to her again I will let her know how far reaching and helpful her program is. I am interested in enrolling in her newest program called “Talkability” which is geared as the next step….you have started the talking…now what’s next 🙂

        • Wow – that would have been amazing having someone so experienced overseeing your training. Hoping we can get access to Talkability here. I was lucky enough to do both It Takes Two to Talk and More Than Words for free. They were offered through our local disability services unit and run by the speechie – who was fantastic. She still checks in on my little guy and so thrilled with his progress!

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