What would you do if you were unable to communicate with those around you? Imagine you do not know how to say the things you want, need, or feel. If you are hurt you do not know how to tell someone you are in pain and where it hurts. You just simply cry and the person is left to try to guess what is wrong with you. Can you understand how frustrating that would be?
Many people on the autism spectrum suffer from language delays and disorders. Silas is one of those individuals. The typical “milestone” for a child Silas’ age is as follows:
Between 3 and 4 years
Can tell a story; sentence length of 4-5 words; vocabulary of about 1000 words; knows last name, name of street, several nursery rhymes
This is where Silas currently is:
Between 1 and 2 years
Says 2-word sentences; vocabulary is growing; waves goodbye; makes “sounds” of familiar animals; uses words (like “more”) to make wants known; understands “no”
Silas’ vocabulary is at about 50 words or so. He knows a few signs such as more, all done, and thank you but he rarely uses them. Within the past 6 months he has definitely expanded his vocabulary but we still have a long way to go. Any time he uses a new word we throw a party about it. Seriously, there is jumping and shouts of “Hooray Silas!” along with lots of clapping. I have become quite the cheerleader because I want to show Silas how exciting it is to hear him speaking and learning. I believe if he sees how happy and excited I am when he does that perhaps he will try more. I try to positively reinforce any time he does amazing things.
Not too long ago he finally identified me as “mommy” in a picture. That was so exciting to me and I made a huge deal about it. It took over 2 years before I even heard mommy. Silas still doesn’t call either Robert or me by daddy and mommy but that is okay. I know that he knows who we are.
I can see when he is trying to tell me things sometimes how upset he gets when I don’t understand. I make it a point to absolutely stop everything I am doing and listen very carefully to what he says. Usually I can make a good guess and figure out what it is he is trying to say or ask for. I hate to see him upset about things. I feel that we are lucky to even have the amount of speech we have because there are some children that never end up speaking.
There are so many different factors that can influence whether or not a child will learn to speak. There are even just as many things that can be done to help “foster” communication growth. The following website provides a lot of good information about speech.
We used to take Silas to speech therapy and he seemed to be doing okay. After about 6 months we stopped taking him because of the start of his ABA therapy. If I had the time in my day to be able to take Silas back to speech I definitely would. I know that someone that has been trained could figure out the best way to help Silas learn and speak. Meanwhile, we are working on incorporating the PECS program with Silas. PECS is the Picture Exchange Communication System. To help Silas put meaning to words and be able to better tell us things he can use pictures of things to show us. This has proven to be a tough item for Silas considering he continuously throws the pictures. I am not sure if we will stick with this program or not. I am always looking for better ways to help him because obviously not everything will work for him.
I narrate every part of my day to Silas. No detail is too small to be explained. If we are playing with a toy together I explain what we are doing and describe as much as possible. I read to Silas and just talk to him. The conversation is always one way but that doesn’t bother me at all. I see him looking at me and listening so I know that he is taking it all in. I almost always get crazy looks from people in Walmart as I explain everything to him. Sometimes I hope that the reason he doesn’t talk is just because he doesn’t feel the need to; not because he can’t. Perhaps one day he will just start talking my ear off in full sentences and blow me away. Who knows…?
If you have a child that is able to communicate easily, be thankful for that. I know most parents cannot wait until their child starts talking. Then once their child does they wish the child would stop talking because they never shut up. I have heard so many people say this. It really makes me mad and my response is usually telling them some rude comments about how they should be thankful. I understand the frustration with children that ask a thousand questions and such but what if they never said anything? Then what would those same parents do? Usually, I get no response from the parents after all of this is said. Either I struck a nerve or they actually are doing as I intended and are truly thinking about what I said.
I don’t mind singing the alphabet a million times and cheering like crazy at the end of it. Silas is learning to sign all of the letters as well. Reading the same books over and over and over again until I have them all memorized is nothing. I can read you entire stories without even opening the books. There are charts on my wall with shapes, colors, the alphabet, and numbers. There are pictures of family members printed out on cards with names in hope that Silas may learn who they all are. Repetition in everything with lots of talking on our part. I know that in time he will be able to speak clearly and communicate his needs with us. I’m not hoping for a person that does speeches for a living; just back-and-forth communication. Until then, I will continue to research, read, and do all I can for Silas. Soon we will be seeing an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist to check on why he keeps getting ear infections since he has tubes. Also to see if he is actually hearing correctly. I am also trying to get Silas to see an Ophthalmologist to check his vision and perception. Sooner or later, we will get Silas good and healthy so that he can learn and grow.
It’s just really tough not being able to communicate with him…I’m sure after reading all of this you could imagine. Now perhaps, you see why some parents make such a huge deal of their child saying “Hi”. It’s those small things that give us hope.