non-verbal. Before he could verbally communicate he did attempt to
communicate in other ways. His preferred method of communication
was to pull and guide us. He still prefers to point, and hand us the things
that he wants. Although, he is able to use these alternative methods of
communication, as a parent I have always had a desire to hear him use
his voice. After a year of various different therapies and interventions
(speech, ot, sensory integration, ABA), I was fortunate enough to hear
his first word. His first word came at age 3, and it was the most
incredible word ever. His first word was the word Duck!
I would like to say that his language just exploded after that, as is
common in most typically developing children. However, language
development was still very slow and challenging. Although, he seemed
to be picking up more words, he had a very hard time using them
spontaneously, and consistently. He still needed a lot of support to get
those one word utterances out. Eventually, we did start to see him
sporadically use 2 word phrases, and I was so excited. Every time he hit
in a new milestone I was just sure the flood gates were about to open and
he would just start having full blown conversations with me. I thought
to myself, soon I will be telling him to be quite because he is just talking
too much! Of course, that was not the case. About 6 months passed and
it seemed like Elias language had just plateaued.
In September 2013, a few months after he turned 4, we discovered that
Joaquin is Hyperlexic. He has always been very passionate about
arranging letters and spelling words. At one point we noticed that he
was reading. He would just pick up random books, like my books on
coaching or feminism, and he would just be reading the titles out loud. After doing some research I learned that this talent of his is
actually called Hyperlexia. This is a learning difference, that some
children have where they actually learn to read and write but struggle
with verbal communication. Upon learning this about him I
immediately started speaking to his teachers and entire therapy team. I rallied everyone to change how we were teaching him. I’m a strong
believer and advocate for teaching children how they learn. So we all
started to include more visual and written communication for him. I
took 1 week off from work to make our home more Hyperlexic friendly
for him. I created charts for him and communication boards. I also
organized and labeled everything around the house… the P-touch was
my new best friend! The good news is that in 4 months of changing our teaching approach.
Joaquin went from using 2 word phrases (ex. want bread) to using 5 word phrases with minimal prompting (ex. I want to eat bread). Incredible!
raising children on the spectrum, is that you should not be afraid to try a
different approach. Pay attention to your child’s interest, how they
interact and interpret the world, they are trying to tell you something.
Use these findings to try different things with your child, eventually you
will find an approach that works best. At the same time try not to get too
frustrated when an approach that worked before is no longer working,
sometimes they need a break, or sometimes it could be that they need a
new approach, they might be bored.
Autism is definitely a journey, and there is no one right way for
everyone. You will pick up and learn so many things about how your
child learns and thrives along the way. I hope that one of the most
wonderful things you will find along your journey in raising a child that
thinks differently, is that you too will start to think differently. You will
learn when to pay attention to your training, and when to pay attention to
your intuition. You will learn to think creatively about how to help your
child. You will learn to think of your child’s learning difference, not as a
disability, but as a different way of accessing information and
interpreting the world. Our role is to unlock those differences, and be the missing piece they need to thrive in this world. Be their biggest fan,
their best advocate, their parent!