Like many others with Autism, my son has speech delay. When he was first diagnosed at age 2, he was unable to communicate with us at all. In his frustration to get his needs across to us, he would have big meltdowns and do sensory seeking things, like banging his head on the floor, to calm himself. This was such a hard thing as a parent to watch my child go through. It hurt knowing he wasn’t able to tell us what he needed. He couldn’t talk, he didn’t point to things, never made eye contact or lead us to what he wanted. Everyday was a struggle for my little man.
Once he started therapy, he slowly started to learn more and more. His therapists in NJ started teaching through play. They would bring toys and teach him to point and communicate with them. Slowly, the meltdowns were less. We continued to encourage play with him when the therapists weren’t around. We first found out Billy loved trains, cars and planes. So, we would get them out and talk while playing. We would tell him about the toys and show him things like them talking.. Slowly, Billy started to play with them on his own, than he played properly. He would make the trains drive on the tracks and even pretend to talk little by little to his Thomas Trains and his Planes. He was sitting and watching the shows and movies, and this really helped bring out his imagination more. Now, he will sit at home and play pretend with them. If he needs something, he will come over and get us for help with them.
Now, a year after he started therapy, we were slowly making progress with some speech and eye contact. But, there were still times Billy would get frustrated, because he wanted a certain object, food, or drink, but couldn’t let us know. He still is not able to ask for most items. So, his speech therapist decided to add in some picture exchange play for him. I was doubtful about how it would work, because a year ago a therapist tried to do something similar and he didn’t take to it at all.
So Megan, his speech therapist, sat down with him and first showed him each picture block. She than opened a book that coordinated with the pictures on the board and showed him how he was to match a picture up with the description. For example, Brown Bear, so he would pick the color brown block and the bear block. Than, she showed him how to communicate using what he just put. Incorporating some sign language in, she would ask what he saw. And, Billy would answer by pointing to himself for “I” and the rest of the sentence for each word. Within 2 minutes, he knew what to do and was doing it all on his own. We were amazed how fast he picked up on it. After his session, his behaviorist came and decided to continue what speech started. So, she used cards for Billy to ask for items and food. When he wanted her to blow bubbles, he would pick the bubble card and hand it to Megan (his behaviorist, same names I know..) She was here for 2 hours and Billy didn’t shed one tear or have one meltdown. It was amazing! You can watch Billy using the picture exchange with his speech therapist on my YouTube, here.
Now, we will be implementing the picture exchange therapy into his everyday routine. His therapists are printing up a ton of picture blocks with stuff he asks for or needs everyday, things like his blanket, lollipops, juice and bedtime! We will also be adding in potty, so that when we start to potty train soon he can get the card to tell me he needs to go.
It is so amazing to see how much progress Billy has made this past year. How toys, play and pictures have helped him to better communicate what he needs to us. If your child has Autism and your therapist haven’t tried picture exchange, you may want to ask them if they feel it is right for your child.