I’ve written before in a now defunct blog about teaching children with severe, non-verbal autism to talk. If you’re interested in teaching a non-verbal child to speak then Risca Solomon is probably the person to talk to in the UK. She runs workshops, which last time I checked were very reasonably priced and I hope to attend one at some stage. Whilst I think it’s likely that Archie will always need a Vantage Lite or some other sort of talker he does like the sound of his own voice (often employed noisily). Currently he has one accurate word, that can be understood by strangers – ‘Mummy’ – but he’s actually quite motivated these days to try and produce different sounds. This is something we have been working on quite a lot with Archie, and he has definitely learned to produce more sounds. However, unfortunately these sounds are not particularly stable, so he’ll learn to approximate a word but then lose it.
For example in the video I posted the other day where we were playing hunt the <insert chosen colour> bus on google maps a very clear ‘soos’ can be heard – the ending to bus- and we did get to the stage where Archie was saying buh oos
A quick reminder of the video and the ‘soos’
But in a video taken today you can hear that bus has been reduced to ‘nah’.
If you listen very carefully you might be able to hear that tomorrow is ‘nanee’. Many, many words are reduced to ‘nah’ and ‘nanee’ by Archie meaning that to date his conversations have had to be very fixed, and given within some sort of context. For example he would use photos or google maps, or his own signs (typically bastardised from Makaton) to give us further clues as to which nah or nanee he was talking about. The talker for the first time is giving an accurate voice allowing him to be understood much faster and without the need to set up a context. I think it took me about two weeks to work out that Archie was saying ‘tomorrow’ when he first started using the word. He had combined it with a strange version of the Makaton sign for tomorrow, so I knew he was saying something, I just wasn’t sure what. With the talker I have no problem at all understanding new words. So when he stated using ‘later’ I understood right away. The talker is giving him more freedom in conversation and slowly we are expanding what we are able to talk about. Surfing in Ireland was discussed yesterday, which was a bit of a first. It also provides a model of accurate speech and my Dad is pretty convinced that Archie is now saying more (so he says the word as he presses the talker buttons), and that slowly some of his speech is becoming more accurate. I think he’s probably right.