One of our biggest concerns when it comes to the Monster getting to something approaching a ‘normal’ life is his ability to use language.
It is, in public, the biggest marker that there’s something different about him. Other children his own age are off conversing about this and that, narrating about their day, and he’s, by comparison, very quiet.
Now, he’s reasonably good about describing things. He loves to use his language very literally, but far more often than not, he’s using scripted phrases that he knows are the magic keys to what it is that he needs at that very moment. He has a good compliment of nouns, some adjectives, and a few verbs. He has good awareness of the names of things and their relationships in a lot of cases. It’s when it comes to describing those that he has issues, or using those things to come up with something coherent…
And in many ways, this is a massive improvement from where he was two years ago, but it’s still far, far behind where his NT contemporaries are. Our friends’ kids can largely talk about school, mention their friends, ask for things and make themselves understood. It’s at times like these that we don’t feel that all the speech therapy in the world is going to do any good – and we’re already looking again at supplementing what the city public schools are giving him with additional private speech therapy.
Apparently, we might be worrying a hair too much. (Which is not to say that we shouldn’t worry…) There are new findings that are going to be published in Pediatrics from the Kennedy Krieger Institute here in Baltimore regarding speech emergence in children with ASDs. I obviously myself have yet to see the article, but apparently it seems that 70% of children with speech delay and ASD and ‘severe language delay’ have phrase or fluent speech by age 8. It’s a large hill to climb from where we are now, but findings like this make it seem like it’s less of an unknown, scary thing to be trying to achieve and that it’s quite easily within our reach with enough practice and the right supports.
There is a huge difference between ‘phrase speech’ and ‘fluent speech’, but I’d take either, frankly, at this point. Half of my coworkers don’t talk in more than three word phrases at times, and they seem perfectly normal to me..