One year ago today Johnny began using words again when he requested what he wanted. At around 16 to 18 months Johnny lost any language he had learned and only used grunts and pointing to communicate. Imagine hearing your child say “Mama” “Da Da” at the typical times of development and one day it just stops.
We wanted him to start using his words again but how do you motivate him? In speech therapy you learn how to model words, label things, get eye contact with your child, create learning moments, learn play skills to increase communication etc. After 6 months we felt like we were not moving forward enough. Johnny understood what we were saying, he followed directions and could point to things in books when we asked him so he was showing he had good receptive language skills. We decided that in order for him to get something he needed we had to get him to start “trying” to say the word even if it meant making a vowel sound. We would give him 3 tries and then model what we wanted him to say. We would also start acting like we didn’t understand at first so he would have to try and make us understand. Would he get frustrated? Yes but what better currency then wanting that cup of juice or that banana.
I remember I asked him to say “Ma Ma” and then point at what he wanted so that I not only heard the words I craved to hear but to start teaching him how to get someone’s specific attention and reap the benefits. It took lots of repetition and modelling but then suddenly he said “Ma Ma”. I was so overjoyed and flabbergasted all at once that I kept kissing his face. Did he say what I thought I heard? He would give me a big smile and say “Ma Ma” over and over again and I would smother his little face with kisses until her started giggling. That’s Johnny’s beloved voice that I haven’t heard in well over a year! I started to cry with happiness which really got him to say “Ma Ma” and put his hands on my face and look deeply into my eyes. This alone is massive because eye contact and touch is everything when you are reaching a child on the spectrum and trying to reach them and bring them back. Once Johnny realized how happy he was making Mommy he kept saying it over and over again and basking in the joy he was giving me. I think we found his motivation.
A year later Johnny now says with prompting “Da Da. I want orange juice. I want bar. ”