Does Anyone Have Suggestions for a Non-Verbal Autistic Child Trying to Talk?

@clownfish (3278)
United States
January 28, 2007 1:20pm CST
Hi! I have been watching a situation for some time and thought I'd ask if any of you might have some suggestions. A boy in my daughter's developmental preschool is autistic and non-verbal, until recently. He is trying to talk. He can say, "Hi," and, "Mama," and a few words here and there. His mother and I both can see his frustration at wanting to "break through" and talk, but he doesn't know how. He is really not getting the attention he needs at the preschool and is not progressing, which could be adding to his frustration. For instance, last year they used the PECS system with this boy, this year, they haven't even bothered to get his PECS book out. They don't even take as much as 5 or 10 minutes to pull him aside and work with him. While the class has done wonders for my daughter, it is leaving this little boy far short. Does anyone know of any non-verbal autistics who have been helped to start talking? Any methods used? Anything at all that would help? Thanks in advance! :-)
10 people like this
22 responses
@rainbow (6763)
28 Jan 07
I really feel for your friend with this, it's such a shame when our little ones get labeled and then passed over. Has your friend confronted them about the PECS and lack of support? Who is his keyworker? My 3 year old has a keyworker at playschool who I hope would tell me if she had any concerns. I went direct to speech and language for Bong as his language got very stuck at one point with few more words than your friends little angel. They gave us sheet s full of pictures based on certain letters like B or P with about 6 words to learn, when I could tell what Bong was trying to say they sent me a new letter. Although Bong still has a speech delay a lot of work and naming everything we saw everywhere until I couldn't think of anything else to spot and name and working with flash cards and my constant what is it? seemed to help him. The speech therapist signed him off last year, sometimes I think it's too soon but you can have an almost age appropriate conversation with him, his audiable ability is 2 years behind but this is how his brain explains the world to him so is a different problem. Some days my 3 year old speaks equaly well to my 7 year old and it's on those days that I realise how much he struggles. I hope you can find a way to help your friend, I really do, poor little chap needs some extra support, he'll probably get there by himself but a little guidance and help for mum wod be nice.
2 people like this
@MrNiceGuy (4147)
• United States
28 Jan 07
I have known several non-verbal autistic boys between age 6 and 10. Most of them did not talk when worked with, its just a matter of time and if they are every going to develop speech. They definately need to use his PECS, and I have seen people going through PECS and quizzing the child, what is this? What is this one? And not letting them finish until they answer. Now, that makes problems in its own right, since they might not know the word or might meltdown. Does he go to therapy after or before school with a licensed therapist 1 on 1? Most of the kids I knew did.
2 people like this
@clownfish (3278)
• United States
28 Jan 07
Hi! Thanks for responding. This little boy is 5 years old. He does have a therapist, but I don't know what they do in their sessions. It's like the school just gave up on him or convinced themselves he can't learn. He is getting more and more violent (at home, he never acts out against the other kids) and was very troubled over the summer when there wasn't any school. Now he doesn't want to go to school on most days. The teacher even admits that one particular child gets more attention because his parents are going through a divorce. I don't think that's a valid reason not to work with the non-verbal child. I would offer to work with him myself it I thought it would help! My heart just breaks for this little guy.
2 people like this
@Thoroughrob (11750)
• United States
29 Jan 07
Get him into speech therapy right away. This is unacceptable. et upa meeting with the teacher and the person in charge. He is not getting what is available to him and it is a shame. When my sister's daughter was in preschool, she received speech services in the class. They should be using his book and working with him. We had a friend that was working with an autistic child and she was getting him to talk by rewarding him. For every thing she asked him to do vocally, if he did it he would get an m&m. They were something that he really liked and he was totally nonverbal. My son is also nonverbal and is 12. He has CP. I know how frustrating it is. He is trying to speak a few words, but they don't try to understand what he is saying. He had an augmentive device to talk with, but it is broke, but even when it worked, we had trouble with the school using it. Keep working with him. If one thing doesn't work, try another. Things like this, it seems like there is no one answer. It is different for every child. I feel for this mother. Get him into speech!! Help her get what is needed. They alot of times do not volunteer services that are available. Maybe even putting him in different class would be better. Support her and be there for her. If the school does not help her, find an advocate that can. There is one in every district. She needs to find someone that can get through to him. Not everyone will and you need that special person!!
1 person likes this
@clownfish (3278)
• United States
29 Jan 07
Hi! He's in speech therapy, but it is obviously ineffective. This mother is so discouraged she doesn't know what to do. She has complained over and over but nothing seems to change. The boy has finally been given an electronic device to help him talk, but it only says about 4 words and he only uses it at school. I can tell you it was a battle just to get that. The teacher just dragged her feet so much that it took a ridiculous amount of time to even make that available. The mom has also talked to people at our educational services unit, but I guess there's not much they can do, either, unless the boy went to school there. This boy has an IEP and all, but it seems that they just don't know what to do for him. I know that this boy isn't the only one in the class, but I also don't understand why he can't have a little more attention. I'll try to brainstorm with this mom and find a program or some way to help. I think the M&Ms might help - if he got one for saying a simple word, it might keep him talking! :-) I'll definitely suggest that to her. Thanks!
1 person likes this
@Thoroughrob (11750)
• United States
29 Jan 07
If she has insurance or medicaid she could go about getting her own device. There are some out there that do alot more than the 4 words. My guess is it is a cheaptalk. Have her look into the devices such as mini-mo frm dyanavox. The springboard or pathfinder by prentrom.com. Make sure what she is interested in will grow with him. He can only get one every 5 years. It is a long process, but it does help with communication. The speech therapist and his dr. would have to order it. I hope I have helped. Tell her not to give up. We have been through 6 speech therapists before we felt we found the right one for our son. We take him once a week and he gets speech at school once a week. I have a friend on here who has a child that is autistic, I'll message her and see if she may have some other ideas.
1 person likes this
@Thoroughrob (11750)
• United States
29 Jan 07
Also, she needs to look at the IEP and see if it is being followed. I'm sure it probably isn't. Then she needs to call an IEP meeting, she can at any time and they have to set one up, to discuss what is not being done and any changes she would like. Make everyone come, all teachers, therapists, and have her get ahold of an advocate to come with her. If that doesn't get a change, report them for not following the IEP. Don't let this go. He depends on her to fight for him to get what he needs. This really gets to me as I am currently fighting with my son's school. It is a constant battle and you have to stay on top of them.
@SplitZip (1490)
• Portugal
29 Jan 07
I was watching this documentary the other day, it was interesting. It was about this woman called Sue Rubin who is autistic, and she managed to break out of her silence, using a keyboard to communicate. She was attending college and everything. Very inspiring. If you don't know the story I'm talking about, here's a couple of links... News story: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6999831/site/newsweek/ Sue Rubin's site: http://www.sue-rubin.org/
1 person likes this
@clownfish (3278)
• United States
29 Jan 07
Hi! Yes, I think I've seen that one or at least heard her story. The talking keyboard really set her free! I don't know if there's any way this little boy could get one, but it would be worth it to try to find out! Thanks! :-)
2 people like this
@SplitZip (1490)
• Portugal
30 Jan 07
If other therapies aren't producing results, I would go for it.
@clownfish (3278)
• United States
31 Jan 07
Yes, I talked to my friend about it, like Rob suggested, and the family doesn't have Medicaid now. Sheesh! As if the deck isn't already stacked against them! We're still working on some ways to help this little boy. :-)
1 person likes this
• United States
29 Jan 07
My sister is a non-verbal autistic. She was taught a few words by my mother. It was a long and frustrating process for her, but my mom stuck to it everyday. My mother would take my sister around the house and show her different things and tell her the words for them. If my sister wanted one of them, she would only get the object if she said the word for it. My mother also used flash cards with different pictures on them. It took my mother about a year to get my sister to say 4 words, but it is very much worth the effort! You can't rely on a school to teach autistics, because many schools do not give them the individual attention they need. Just keep trying!! It's a long road, but it can be done.
1 person likes this
@clownfish (3278)
• United States
29 Jan 07
Hi! You are right - most schools, unless they are specialized - just aren't able to handle non-verbal autistics. The mom does ask the boy to show her what he wants, and he can do that very well. Thanks for your kind words. :-)
@tamaco_uk (481)
• Cyprus
29 Jan 07
Sorry to learn that. I have a cousing who is like that and unfortunately there was change for many years now. She is now around 35 years old. The ones that really suffer in such situations is the family.
1 person likes this
@clownfish (3278)
• United States
29 Jan 07
Hi! You are so right! That's why I'm trying to help. Her family has always had it rough, but it just got rougher. With her other son going on a heart transplant list, their frustrations and sorrows are mounting. They need help, badly! Thanks for your kind words. :-)
@limosonia1 (1560)
• United States
29 Jan 07
From my experience and talking with my girlfriend who has an autistic child. He needs repetition and lots of patience. If his routine is broken or changed that will cause him to lash out and not want to do things. He needs to do his PECS with the same person at the same time everyday so that he is comfortable. That is the key to helping. He needs to be in a special class to help him regular day care is not the answer. She should look into different programs for autistic children.
@clownfish (3278)
• United States
29 Jan 07
Hi! Thanks for the response. The mother knows this, but she is limited in what's available here and in what she would be able to afford. She sends the PECS book to school with the boy, but the teachers never even get it out of his backpack. What can she do except complain?
@SageMother (2277)
• United States
29 Jan 07
Teaching sign language is one way to speed up the commmunication when one cannot form words well. If he mouths the words as he signs, things are much easier. It cuts down on frustration and supports his acatually trying to talk without The use of technologies that might be expensive. If technology isn't an obstacle, then a "tech-talk" or simolar device can be used as a communication aid. He can still say the words but also press the buttons that activate a voice in the unit, that says the words in the order they are pressed. Options are always available if you know where to look. Try some of the organizations for the deaf to get more ideas on approaches to speech problems. I bet they can give ideas and may hae a referral list for some of the devices that are used.
@clownfish (3278)
• United States
29 Jan 07
Hi! One of the other posters gave me some information about getting an electronic talking device for the little boy. I'm planning to talk to the mom about this. She does want sign language taught to her son, but since being refused, we don't know where else to go. We live in a small rural area, but maybe I can find something like you suggest, services for the deaf that might also be willing to help this little guy. Thanks for the input! :-)
@maryannemax (12172)
• Sweden
29 Jan 07
my boyfriend had been working in a school for autistics for more than 5 years now. and he's so happy with the kind of job he has. i hope that the boy get to be sent to a special school where he can be given more attention, attention that he really needs.
1 person likes this
@clownfish (3278)
• United States
29 Jan 07
Hi! Thanks for your response. I have suggested a different program for this little boy, but that's up to the parents. I know their financial situation isn't great, so they can't afford a lot. They are trying to do the best they can with what they have. :-)
• Philippines
29 Jan 07
have you tried to bring him to a doctor because maybe there is still a chance for him. you can also start teaching him how to talk by using sign language then spell out the words that you are telling to him. patience is needed for this boy.
1 person likes this
@clownfish (3278)
• United States
29 Jan 07
Hi! Yes, he has seen several doctors. The family is trying everything they can, they are just not getting much help from anyone. :-)
@blueskies (1186)
• United States
29 Jan 07
Does this little guy have an education plan? If not, he needs to be evaluated and set up to receive all the therapies he needs on a regular basis, including speech therapy. With some children, it takes a lot for the brain to be able to sort out the proper words for all of the confusing sensations and thoughts swirling about in their heads. My son stopped talking completely at 18 months of age. It took about more than a year to get him talking again and several years of speech therapy to help him learn to talk in a manner which other people could understand. If this little guy has a special-ed plan in place and it's not being implemented, the school administration needs to be notified.
@clownfish (3278)
• United States
29 Jan 07
Hi! This child does have an IEP that's supposed to include speech and occupational therapy. I never see the occupational therapist. She's supposed to be working with my daughter also because of her sensory issues, but since she's been improving, I haven't pushed the issue (evidently it wouldn't do any good anyway). The mother does feel that the IEP isn't being followed and has complained several times, it's just that the teacher thinks she's doing everything and doesn't see the lack of attention for this little boy that the rest of us see. Perhaps the advocate idea would help the most if she could get some help making her points to the school. :-)
@clownfish (3278)
• United States
31 Jan 07
Hi, Everyone! Today the mom of this little boy noticed that the boy was walking along the sidewalk grates, which my daughter does all the time. She said, "Now if he'd start mimicking her speech!" So, we're going to try to get the kids together to play a few times a week and see if that might help. Think good thoughts for us - or pray if you're so inclined! :-) Thanks for the great support and suggestions! :-)
@jaredlp (418)
• United States
2 Feb 07
OH and u just made me think of one more thing reading ur comment here talk to everyone u can form local to state level. The parents with the loudest voice and most frequent voice often get the most changes done to the system. I wish i knew more about ur states programs that are availible but unforcenantly everything differs so much. I just want to give a little testamonial on that real quick. I work in Alaska and 12 years ago the company i work for volantaly dicertified all its icf-mr facilties loseing out on a lot of state money in exchange providing services that where more individual based and allowed people to express there own goals not goals that other came up with for them. I have worked elsewhere in the US and havent seen anythng like it. when in PA they where proud to have deinstitutionalisd in the mid 90's and hte icf-mr is the saving grace. Where i was in FL was icf-mr also but in sepperate communities away from everyone else. All offer simaliar services on paper yet working at all three i can tell u that there was a huge differance. at this time i work in alaska and i know who my boss is the consumer and if required the gardians ( ussually the parents) they have all the true power and when using there voice get a lot changed. Seeing as the Gov't previded between 100-150 thousand dollars per person per year the threat of leaveing is a very scary one. Thought that might help to as much as most wouldnt consider relocation to a place that prevides better services it may need to be an option in the future if where u r at doesnt follow through. As was mentioned in adifferent post i believe early intervention is easiest and as with anything easiest to learn the right way the first time.
• India
29 Jan 07
Well I have met a boy with such problem in my social internship for the college curriculum. I was working under an NGO (SIDHI) working for the Children With Special Needs. I met 3 autistic children there who were under the governance of the ngo. One of them was almost non verbal. He always blabbered the same thing " Nani ka Pota " which means Paternal grandson of maternal grandmother . He never said a word other than this. But what I have heard is that he is now a lot more verbal. What was being done for his training was to let him freeely interact with other children. He interacted with various other children who had some or the other disability so he did not fell diffident at his own handicap. He was becoming more free towards the end of my internship. He now can speak around 60 words and it has been around 8 months. Considering that he had only about 1-2 hrs daily with those children that too not very regularly( He lived in very remote region) its a very remarkable acheivement. Now if this can help you I will be pleased . :-)
@clownfish (3278)
• United States
29 Jan 07
Hi! This boy does get to be with other children in the preschool class for 2 and 1/2 hours a day, 5 days a week. That is one of the reasons the mother still sends him to school, so he can be with other kids. He likes my daughter, they are friends and my daughter understands and accepts him. Maybe if they could spend more time together, like on playdates, that would help, too. Thanks for your help! :-)
• India
3 Feb 07
Ya he might be getting to be with other children. How is the behaviour of other children towards him. Do they talk properly with him as if he is normal or do they just be with him because they have to. U say he likes ur daughter . Is she talking with him. If so then I say that the chances of improvement are high till he is not isolated by the children. I had more than a months experience with disabled children out f which 2 were autistic.
• United States
15 Feb 07
Autism is something that takes a lot of knowledge about and expertise to get through to many of these kids. If the school he is in isn't conforming to laws that are put in place to help the child learn perhaps the mother should address the school, then if needed go to the district. If the district does nothing then perhaps it's time to talk to a politician, state representative or even congressman. What about utilizing sign language? Have they tried that avenue? Even a combination of sign language with mouthing the words can sometimes be helpful in situations like this. Unfortunately autism is one of those things where no 2 people are identical. What can work for some may not work for others. Even thinking of trying another school all together, simply based upon the fact that the teacher and the people in this school don't seem to be able to connect can make a difference but this can also be a hinderance if the child cannot handle change. As the saying goes "the squeaky wheel gets oiled first" so perhaps it's the mother's time to speak up and voice her dislike at how things are being handled.
@clownfish (3278)
• United States
16 Feb 07
Hi! Thanks, Hockeygal. The mother has complained so many times and she is so upset, she has just sort of given up. She hasn't called an IEP meeting because she knows she will come unglued. She requested sign language but was denied because her son figits with his hands. Neither of us thought this was a valid reason to deny the boy sign language, but she doesn't have anywhere else to turn right now. I talked to her Tuesday about getting an advocate, like a legal advocate or lawyer, and she is considering that. The main hurdle her family has to face right now is waiting for three months to find out if her older son will have to have a heart transplant. She has 3 special needs kids altogether, so that's why I've been trying to find ways to help her. You are right, no two austistics are exactly alike. Perhaps if they were, it wouldn't be such a mystery! :-)
• Canada
12 Feb 07
Pictures have done a world of good with my son at home and preschool. Also, ABA Therapy (he only gets 6 hours a week)has helped him in several areas including speech. Then of course there is his speech therapy. we have just really worked with him repeating and repeating..It gets monotonous but it is worth it! we litterally would say for example:(once he had the word cookie) "More cookie. More Cookie. More cookie. More Cookie." Pausing after each time to give him the chance to respond or try and upon a try even if it was one sound, letter or syllable of the word he would get the cookie or whatever the item was at the time. Now in less than a year, actually really since September he has just exploded and we are working on "I want cookie, I want milk, I want train" etc. We've come to the point wher if he just says only one or two words we can say "say the whole thing" and he will say "I want...whatever the item is or "I need help" this is huge development for my son and he feels so impowered now at the age of 3.7 years. I hugely reccomend the use of pictures and the patience to repeat and see what happens but this does take time and also if you can afford ABA or IBI therapy, the gains are huge even for a small number of hours. anything you can afford is better than no hours at all. We sacrifice for our son's six hours because it is so beneficial in so many areas including his awareness and listening skills ability to sit and attend longer and tol isten ie "Cleanup your train" and he does. Or "Clean up your train and then you can play with your cars" and he does. It is absolutely fabulous! He has much better eye contact and says Hi Daddy when my Husband gets home from work and Hi Mommy when I pick him up from preschool. I hope this helps... :)
• Canada
12 Feb 07
One more thing, be sure to build a large single word base before you move on to the two word phrases and then to the three words etc. You don't want to overwhelm our children. also, show the picture or the actual item while you are saying the word. Make sure they are focusing on it and not in their own world when you are doing this :) Good Luck!
@albert2412 (1782)
• United States
11 Feb 07
Yes, I do know of things to help an autistic child. Please go to http://www.autism-recoveredchildren.org and see thew window meadia player story about Slater's recovery from autism.
@clownfish (3278)
• United States
12 Feb 07
Hi! Thanks for the link! I'll check it out. :-)
@kittykatzz (1133)
• United States
5 Feb 07
first of all i would talk to the parents of the child if it seems that they themselves arent seeing how their child's being treated while they're not looking..if they are supposed to be a developmental preschool the staff should be well aware of this childs disabilities and should be encouraging him with EVERY opportunity that they get.. and i will also say that if they arent doing what theyre supposed to and they "ignore" his special needs it can actually make him REGRESS!!!!! ok.. speaking as a parent of a 9 year old autistic son (who goes to summer school EVERY YEAR JUST SO THAT he wont "regress" or "forget" what he learned at school throughout the year..it is an individual summmer program with just him and one other child) who is moderate to severe at times however deemed middle to high functioning as well.. there are a vast amount of differences when it comes to the level of understanding spoken words with autistic kids and for that matter their level of "caring" about what it is that your trying to communicate with them.. my son (although started saying words at about 1 1/2 and then regressed completely) didnt start saying anything again till he was about 5, with an extreme amount of speech therapy both inschool and at home and by us.. now at nine and for maybe the last year he has come along way.. my best suggestion for these parents is to start out incredibly small but not to totally underestimate.. they arent going to just be able to engage in typical conversation.. i used to be soo upset with the fact that i couldnt ask my son "how was your day at school today" or "what did you do at school today" but the fact is that there ARE ways for him to answer that question that i just didnt see.. what we did is worked VERY hard to get him to understand BASIC positive and negative responses to questions that he would have interest in. for example.. he had NO interest in expressing his school day funtions, but had ALOT of interest when it came to playing a nintendo gameboy.. so when he got home i would start to ask YES OR NO questions.. like,, "do you want some orange juice, yes or no?" and ask till i got the yes or no response.. then "doyou want to pay gameboy? yes or no?" and wait.. yes or no was the BIG one at first,,but it opened up a HUGE line of communication for us. now we are able to ask questions and get a response to not only yes or no, but good or bad, happy or sad, fun or boring, clean or dirty, alot or alittle, and a much more.. the key with us was to make sure you SAY the choice of answers with the question.. he has even asked us questions now and will say yes or no afterwards.. we dont have to say it everytime anymore with some of the basics.. but try to start with asking about things he has alot of interest in,..im now able to ask my son.. "did you have fun at school today?" and sometimes can even ask "what do you want to eat?"! instead of running down the list of appropriate foods with yes or no after. i know that this isnt going to help everyone... it may or maynot help you with your child's friend's parents situation as although autism tends to show the same nasty signs, the children affected seem so different from each other displaying similar yet such a wide variety of issues..
@clownfish (3278)
• United States
6 Feb 07
Hi! Thanks for your response, KittyKatzz! Well, the parents are painfully aware that the school is not doing everything they can for their son. They are just so frustrated and angry, almost beyond pushing the issues because they are almost convinced it will do no good anymore. To add to their troubles, their older son is going for surgery this week. He is having surgery on his current pacemaker and has to go on the heart donor list. He is only 19, so their hearts are breaking. I just thought I could maybe get some opinions and suggestions from others in the know so I could be ready to help with the younger autistic son. I thought maybe one thing I could do is have them over a few days a week so her son could play with my daughter and maybe I could help work with him if his mom will let me. You gave me some very, very good suggestions. I will continue to listen and research and try to find anything to help. Thanks again! :-)
1 person likes this
@rlshaw (872)
• United States
29 Jan 07
This morning on the view they were talking about autistic children and they gave a bunch of different groups. I'm sure if you went on their website they would have them listed!!!
@clownfish (3278)
• United States
31 Jan 07
Thanks! I'll bet they have some great resources listed! :-)
• United States
29 Jan 07
What would help is speech and occupational therapy. It needs to be individulised.
@clownfish (3278)
• United States
29 Jan 07
This is already supposed to be being done.
• Canada
29 Jan 07
It depends on how autistic they are. Some children benefit well from pictures. You tell the child what the picture is (for example: a picture of an apple) and have them point to that picture when they want an apple, then tell them what it is. Or, to allow them freedom of choice, (lets use lunch time as an example) have a large piece of cardboard with pictures of things on it that they may have for lunch. Apple juice, milk, sandwich, french fries. Show them the card and tell them the names of all the things, then have them point to what they would like to eat.. as they point to each thing, make sure to say it a few times. 'You picked juice, would you like to have juice? Juice is a good choice. I'm glad you chose juice." It will take some time, but non-verbal autistc's have had a success rate of 5 words a year with this program. Good luck.
@clownfish (3278)
• United States
29 Jan 07
This sounds like an excellent program - the problem is finding someone in this area who can do it with this boy. Thanks for the information! :-)
@sharon613 (2324)
• United States
29 Jan 07
A close friend of mine has an autistic daughter who she sends to Boston Higashi school I could ask her what the school does in getting her daughter talking.
@clownfish (3278)
• United States
29 Jan 07
Hi! I would appreciate that very much! Thanks! :-)