Finding our voice

We never take anything for granted and we appreciate all the little things in life because the littlest things for us can be so hard to achieve.

All ASD diagnosed people and families are affected by certain aspects to varying degrees.

Both of our kids have endured severe language delay and were pretty much non-verbal for an extended period of time.

After years of ABA, speech therapy and adjusted language and methods at home and school, both kids’ vocabulary has dramatically improved, but they are still really struggling with general speech and especially conversation skills.

It’s fascinating and very frustrating to see how hard it is for them to find the right words to speak. They can recite lines from movies, sing lots of songs and decipher letters and words but find it so difficult to reply appropriately to a question or verbally express how they feel or what they think.

Initially we began working on following a basic instruction and action to repeat. Progressing to then copying movements with our mouths and sounds to create. Blowing into a straw to make bubbles and using a straw to drink from are good exercises to encourage this.

We adjusted our way of communicating, shortening language using one or two-word phrases repetitively until they understood and learnt to speak.

They learnt a lot of their language from kid’s movies and catchy tunes, repeating the words, lines and phrases while living in their own worlds, on repeat.

We consistently repeat what they have sounded or said and then prompt the appropriate word or response that should or could have been said instead. One example we worked on was saying, “Good morning Madi, Madi say good morning mum”. After time, and initial issues with dropping the word ‘say’, they have been able to respond appropriately without prompting and even initiate the conversation themselves!

We have used lots of visuals to assist us. Photos of people’s faces, interests, common places and activities to help encourage and create conversation and speech.

It is still so surreal every time we hear their voices and we are so excited every time we hear a new word or unprompted response!

One of our specific goals this year has been working on conversation skills in the car after pick up from school. Everyday I’d ask, “How was school?” We have progressed from nothing to mimicking to copying a learnt response in context and then the last week of school, unprompted, Thomas replied with, “It was good.”

We could see and hear that it was all in there, but it’s taken time and dedication to figure out the best ways and methods to draw it out of them.

Finding alternate ways to communicate and promote speech has been paramount. We focus on tools and activities they have fun with. Using high fives to say hi, iPad apps, singing songs with actions in the car, on the swing or jumping together on the trampoline and talking about how cool the surf or scooting session has just been.

We continue to speak to them even if there is no response back and repeat, encourage, prompt and repeat.

We are currently promoting conversation between Madi and her best friend with phone calls, facetiming and texts. Thomas is attending social skill groups with OT’s and Speech therapists to practice language with activities to play more appropriately with friends.

There was a time that we thought we would never hear their voices. Our hearts still melt every time we hear them speak. We will never ask them to be quiet, as annoying as their vocal stimming may sometimes be, after praying to hear their words for so long. We treasure every precious moment and goal that we achieve. I know some parents never get to experience this and we are so grateful to our whole team of people for helping us to achieve our kids improved speech.

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