Most children with Autism are non-verbal. They cannot talk, they cannot pronounce proper words, some make unintelligible sounds. Some children develop speech and language normally and then would eventually regress and lose their speech functions. For some, they never acquired any language at all. Language impairment is one of the main symptoms of Autism.
Maya developed language at the appropriate milestone but unlike most children with Autism, she didn’t lose her language skills. Instead, her language development stagnated at a 1 1/2 year old level. At 9 months she said her first word “duck” and pointed at her rubber duckie in the bathtub. By 12 months old, she knew all the alphabet and could say and point at the appropriate letters. And she knew her numbers from 1 to 10. She could pronounce and label many words, she knew all the colors of the rainbow and all the animals. She would happily sing several nursery rhymes. By 1 and 1/2 years, she could count to 20. When asked “Where’s Mummy?” she would happily point at me. When we point to Daddy and ask her “Who’s that?” she’d yell “Daddy!”. Her vocabulary was more than 200 by that point.
However, she never ever called me Mummy, even though she knew the word. She knows the word milk, but when she wants it, she’ll throw a tantrum. She quickly learnt the names of her favorite snacks eg. cookies, biscuits, crackers, ice cream; but when she wanted them, she’d either scream in front of the kitchen cabinet or take our hand and point it to the item she wanted.
She would memorize sentences from her favorite cartoons and repeat them over and over again. This is called echolalia; echolalia is another symptom of language impairment. She would repeat certain sentences all day long. Often, she wakes up in the middle of the night and talk to herself. She would stay in bed sitting up in the dark and we’d hear her talking. “Hello Pocoyo” or “Let’s make a house under the table” or “It’s a blue car” and would repeat it again and again for 2-3 hours. One of the few words she would say appropriately was “Bye bye”. Sometimes to say good bye to someone but more often it was her way of telling someone to go away.
1 week after starting the GFCF diet, she made 1 word requests. 2 months after the diet and ABA therapy, she started to request for things appropriately in 2-3 word sentences. Since we started implementing all the supplements and other biomedical treatments, her language has improved tremendously. And doing more intensive ABA therapy definitely contributed to her growing language (we now do 30 hours of ABA a week). Every morning she’d run to our room with a cheery “Good morning Mummy”. Every time she sees us, she’ll greet us with “Hi Daddy”. She greets all her teachers in the morning and says goodbye to all her school friends. I’m happy to say that we often hear 7-8 word sentences these days.
Here are some famous words from Maya recently;
When she couldn’t find her favorite shoes before going out she said “Let’s go to Singapore and buy some shoes”
When she was playing and one of her dolls were missing she said “Mummy, you better go look for the doll”
One day, she grabbed my hand and dragged me to the bathroom and said “Mummy, let’s go take a bubble bath together”
“Daddy, let’s go to the glass slipper shop” when her Cinderella doll lost her shoes
“No, I don’t want that. How about the princess dress?” when she refused to wear pajamas to bed.
When arriving at her school one morning, Maya said “Oh no, this isn’t the ice skating place”. She was dismayed because recently we took her to Disney Princess on Ice show and loved it.
One day, Maya quietly did a poo and a `pebble’ of it fell out of her nappy. She picked it up, threw it into the dustbin and said “It’s dirty”. And when we discovered what had happened, Paul was so shocked he yelled out “She did a crap!!” and Maya started repeating “I did a crap, I did a crap, I did her crap” until we quickly distracted her with her favorite cartoon. So now Paul and I are ultra-careful with our language, no more cursing in the car when in traffic.