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.
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.
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.
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!