Minion Monday – The trouble with words, and the joy of finding them.
AKA – How Zach learned words and what finally made them stick!
You know how they say a picture is worth a 1000 words?
While pictures are awesome, when your child is nonverbal those words are worth more than any picture you will ever find.
Zach has always had trouble with words.
He spent an extraordinary amount of time learning words.
When you think he got it, suddenly it would be gone.
Just gone! You knew he knew the word, he said it yesterday, last week and sometimes even knew it for months then it would be gone.
It was horribly frustrating, and exhausting teaching each word over and over only to have it lost over and over again.
At 5 years old he had less than 20 words he could regularly speak.
Then we learned his autism was a regressive form. This explained everything!
It was a long processes finding this solution. We had to try so many things. We started with vocal repetition, then flash cards, writing, followed by signing, and lastly a speech device.
Each had the same results as before. He would get it, you could see it click in his head. He would even use the word independently for a while then poof it was gone again.
It was so frustrating to have him know how to ask for things then just have that disappear.
Until his amazing speech teacher was working with him and wrote words which I then signed and we each spoke the words attempting to get him to pronounce them correctly.
The words we learned that day were still there the next week, and the next month.
Two months later they were gone.. <sigh>
However, I soon realized we were on to something. Just one thing was not going to work. So we added objects and activities.
For example, the word “Cup”.
This was a word he would learn then forget. So, when we could tell he wanted a cup (pointing or taking us to the cups) we would make him say, cup, we would use a flash card or sign the word. Then he had to say cup clearly before he could have the cup.
Then, for days or weeks after we asked him to bring us the cup, each time saying and signing cup until he got it. Then praising him when he got it right.
It was difficult but got easier over time.
We did this for everything he wanted, every single time.
Until he could consistently ask for the object.
Over a long period of time.
Years later, he still remembers them all of them without fail.
We still do this with any new word he learns. For places or people we use pictures. (If I don’t know the sign I mime the action or spell out the word in sign language.)
At 12, he can ask for anything he wants, He can say, I love you mom. He even came up to me when I fell last week (tripped over my own feet) and asked me if I was okay. Best of all, on my birthday this year (at the beginning of this month) He held my hand and sang along with the rest of my family when they sang happy birthday! (He couldn’t do that in July when his brothers each had a birthday he just covered his ears and hid, this time there was joy in his eyes and he held my hand and sang along. I hugged him so tight after!)
He has even learned to look up videos or products online and show them to me when he wants something. He can ask for specific foods he likes and even asks to go places and do things!
However, If you do not know him, he is rather hard to understand, and he usually requires translation. So, our next step is to help him learn to use his iPad as a speech device so maybe some day he can learn to communicate with others as well as he can talk to me.
I have hope now that he can have a life where he is understood, and others can see what a wonderful loving person he is.
Who knows maybe that job I hoped for can happen some day.