Benny (we’ll call him that to protect his identity) is a seven-year-old boy diagnosed with autism. A couple of years ago Steve began working with Benny, and at only five years old, his challenges were serious. Because his parents were at their wit’s end about how to get him to speak, and his doctor had recommended he get speech therapy,
Steve was selected to help this amazing little boy find a voice. At the time of his arrival, he was only grunting, pulling people to what he wanted, or throwing fits to communicate that he wanted something.
After several months, it was determined Benny had childhood apraxia of speech – a motor speech disorder in which children have problems saying sounds, syllables, and words due to the brain not communicating to the mouth what muscles to move for speech – so he unable to verbally communicate what he wanted to others. So, Steve began working with him on other modes of communication, such as pointing and using a representational picture system. He began using direct pointing more, then pointing to pictures to indicate desires. After several more months, he was showing a consistent ability to point to pictures on a sixteen-grid picture system, rather than throw fits or pull people as much. His parents felt a sense of relief having Benny communicate using a picture system, rather than getting frustrated and physical.
Recently, Steve was able to coordinate with the state about for the purchase of a more advanced augmentative/alternative communication (aac) system for Benny. With the system, he’s now started navigating among several different pages, using his pointing on a touch screen system, to communicate even more wants and needs, and more accurately what it is he desires.
More recently, he’s even started using a voice (even though it is a synthesized one) to talk with others, and his parents are no longer at their wit’s end, worrying about whether Benny will every get the chance to communicate with others calmly and accurately. Benny is a changed man! Albeit, a little man still.