So, instead of sitting around crying and being depressed that my son may never speak. I decided to take action.
I registered for a college course in American Sign Language. I read some reports saying that some autistic children that learned sign language started to speak.
At the very least I can stop worrying about my son never talking and work on teaching him sign language as an alternative form of communication.
He turned 4 in September and I feel that the language area of his brain still has time to kick in. He just started really understanding us within the past 6 months. They say that receptive language (understanding) proceeds expressive language (speech) and I think this is the perfect time to teach him sign language.
All of my son's therapists say that he is very bright, learns quickly, and has an excellent memory. He also makes good eye-contact and understands well. I think that he is choosing not to speak (he babbles and makes all of the vowel and consonant sounds). He uses pecs sometimes, but we can't keep his cards out because my two-year old takes them and plays with them and rips the schedule page off of the wall. We do have some pecs available for him on the side of the refrigerator and he uses them at times- but it is so hard to have the exact one when we need it and I feel better using ASL.
So, he has school, aba therapy, pecs, and now sign language to get him going. I will do whatever I have to to be able to communicate with him.
Prayers and Blessings to all and thanks for all of the support that I have received on this board.
My oldest child (who is NT) knows ASL (it was her foreign language choice in high school and she really took to it. She tutors it now in college and can function in a pinch as an interpreter) and she did teach my youngest to sign a bit before he finally started speaking. He only had a few signs he used, and once he started talking his use of them faded away. It was interesting though that for a short while when his speech was finally developing he would revert to a sign if he was stressed. The signs she taught him were very basic, things like needing to use the toilet, needing a drink of water, etc. We also used a modified version of PECS (more at preschool then at home) and those PECS cards were used much, much longer and even continue today to a small extent (like making activity choices at daycare, having a visual schedule for him to follow, etc).
On a side note, an inexpensive laminating kit to protect a few key PECS cards might keep them safe from your toddler.
I'm glad you are feeling better! I know I always feel better when I have a game plan that I'm working on. Its when I feel lost and don't know what I could or should be doing that I feel my worst.
Thank you for the informative and positive replies. I have seen more studies showing that sign language can help activate the language area in the brain. I am very hopeful and excited.
My son has been such a sweetie this week. He picks up his toys every night with his two-year old brother when we ask him to. He has really been listening and responding very well. Seems like he is on the verge of making a lot of progress. I think this will help us both.
Everything you have posted Linda about your son sounds so much like my Zachary. Their temperament sounds similar, and when you describe the level your son is at in his language development I can so picture my own Zach right there too when he was about 4-4.5. My Zach is 9 now and last night after I posted to you I noticed he was in bed but still awake. I went in and snuggled with him a bit and asked him if he can remember using sign language. He didn't remember, but it did lead to a big conversation between he and I about his problems talking, and what autism is and what it means to him to have autism. I think it was the deepest conversation he and I have ever had! I first want to thank you for triggering that conversation between Zach and I, I think it was good for both of us! And second, I know in my heart of hearts that someday you are going to have similar conversations with your son. Have faith! Your son is still a bit younger than Zach was when he finally started, and Zach moved through the same stages you have described in your son at about the same times. He seemed to first start to understand language, and then his babbling increased. Then he picked up a single word here and there and finally around 5 he started to hook more than one word together at a time. Now at 9 he can talk, but he stammers and struggles sometimes. But he is understandable and he can communicate without any aids! Your son is going to get there too, I just know it!
It sounds like you are doing an awesome job Linda! It is very hard isn't it to do ABA, PECS, etc, etc. I have been there, done that, and am still there. Even though I do all of it like you, I often feel it's not enough, I need to do more. But I have learned that I do the best with what I've got where I am. Kudo's to you for being an awesome mom!!!
You go girl. Crying just delays the therapy you can provide.
I used an awsome DVD called Signing Times with Alex and Leah. I'm telling you it was the best video I ever purchased. It is so much fun too. We still sing those songs and know our signs. Like I use the NO and Yes sign all the time. It is a big thing in schools now. So please go look it up and see about getting it.
Kolby, I was just about to post the same thing about the Signing Time Videos. I have been meaning to do so for the past several days. I have to second your opionion about them being the best ever.
Sign language was the bridge for my child to start speaking, but he was very resistant until we started watching the first Signing Time video. He loved it. He watched it several times a day and his signing took off like crazy. Soon after his spoken language really took off. It is the most valuable video I have ever purchased.
The videos show numerous people(adults, babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers, teens), in a wide range of settings (parks, schools,homes) signing each word. You get the benefits of repetition without the bordom. My other kids (neighborhood kids and cousins also) really liked the videos. This really helped because they were then able to work on signing with my son.
In the UK a system is used called makaton - its simplified signing. Although our boys are not really getting on with it, many parents find it of great value.
We also have a programme called "Something Special" on the BBC which is made using makaton. Even though our boys dont use the signing they love the programme. There is also a book called "Baby Signing" which is a very good introduction to the basics of the language.
Best of luck and it is good to see people trying to help their kids.
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Your post touched my heart. Your son sounds wonderful. My son has such a wonderful personality as well. That is why I would never change his autism, it is part of who he is. But, I can't wait to talk to him.
I am so glad that you and your son had such a great conversation. Thank you for giving me more hope and motivation!
Everyone, thank you for your advice and support. We actually get the Signing Times with Alex and Leah on t.v on the weekend (and watch it). I also ordered "Baby Babble"- our second copy because my 2-year old broke the other one. It has excellent speech therapy and some sign language. Also ordered another dvd "My Baby Can Talk - First Signs". So my son will be getting a big dose of sign language.
I learned the sign for milk from the Signing Times show and have been using it with him. He tries to make the sign and sometimes gives me a mmmmmmmm. I can tell that he will be responsive to sign language.
Love hearing all of your ideas and advice. Thank you, Thank you
i dont know if you have any case management or that sort of thing. but!
our son is non verbal and has had some success (and not so much success) with PECS. he stopped using it and then the team had to try to figure out why. i STRONGLY advise that if you have a case manager to help you out with finding all of the info and funding that you and the daddy guy and who ever else works with your child gets FORMAL training in PECS because when i went to the formal training we found out we were doing it all WRONG
if you can swing and it is decided by the team that PECS is the way to go, get the formal training through their 2 day seminar as quick as you can. it is really good information and it really high lights the importance of doing it right
G-Luck... and on a side note
i have an OVERALLY verbal niece... talking may not be all it's cracked up to be!! days i watch her, i am glad that isaac doesnt talk! besides, your child is young yet there is plenty of time for talking still in the support group we go to offline their are several ladies who tell us there sons didnt start talking formally until ages 7 and 8 and me cousin's autisitic step son didnt talk until 8 either so talking may come but getting non verbal communication going is more important! Good for you for doing the best by your son
Thank you Liz for your reply.
I still intend to use pecs. I just want to add sign language as well. I have a 2-year old who is extremely talkative and a chatter box (a blessing from heaven). He almost talks enough for both of my sons and I think that his talking will help my older son.
I want to use pecs (have an aba therapist that is showing me how), sign language (which we will add to his therapy) and anything else that is language oriented. I just want to get that language area of my son's brain activated.
Thank you for your reply and especially for telling me about the older children that began speaking.
I just wanted to look into a non-verbal (more used) way of communication (ASL) for my son. I still believe that pecs is very good too.
PECS is awesome, when you get everyone onboard and the thing that is really good about PECS is that it helps with other forms of communication as well. it will help with the verbal communication, when and if it developes... with our son we are at this point thinking he is going to remain mute but he has spoken more this year than any other year, it just never comes back out once he has said it. but labeling the wanted object verbally with the picture helps to consolidate that connection in a very visually motivated ASD mind. when they hear the word ball it might just sound like nonsense but if they see the picture or the object with the word then that just helps to reinforce that what you are saying actually means something.
the training was just really neat and i strongly recommend it... even thought i really thought as i was going into that it was a waste of my time because i already knew the basics... there was just SOOOO much that was lost in translation.
Isaac has a few signs he uses as well... there are some benefits and drawbacks to sign language as there are with any other communcation form that is nonverbal. he understands more than he uses but all in all my son is just a major pain in the behind and refuses pretty much all forms of communication on principal! its almost like he doesnt want to stoop so low as to communicate with us arrogant isnt he
but what every route you go, as long as you have good motivators, your son should do great as long as everyone is using the same methods finding things that isaac wants enough to do the work has been his biggest down fall! so really think about what your son wants in order to give him strong reason to communicate!
oh and i do have to play devil's advocate... even though we really wanted to use sign langauge with isaac because it just seemed more dignafied or something... there was a REALLY good point made to us... MOST people do NOT know sign language! i almost had to slap myself on the forehead at the realization of that. if our son went to the store and had to use the bathroom the typical clerk would not know the sign for toilet but a picture of a toilet is universal (in non third world countries) it just blew my mind that i hadnt thought about it in such simple terms. when i worked in the adult care field for individuals with mental retardation there were several signs everyone knew but i would dare say 99% of the staff didnt have formal training in sign language and wouldnt know what clients trained in it were saying. not saying you shouldnt give your son all the tools he can have to communicate but just something to we didnt even think about until it was right in our faces when we were trying to decide which way to go with our son! sign language works really well but generally people taught it have a back up communication tool... writing. so if they run across people who dont know sign language they can write a note if the need be. just things to consider