Individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder often have deficits related to communication. Sign language, Picture Exchange Communication Systems (PECS) and assistive devices are common examples of alternative communicative methods we work to teach our clients to use. It is imperative that those who are not able to speak have a voice and a way to communicate their wants and needs.
One client I have had the pleasure of working with for the past three years has used various alternative communication methods. When we first met, he began using a PECS book where he requested various items and activities by exchanging their pictures. As his imitation skills strengthened, we were also able to teach him a number of signs that he used in combination with his PECS book to communicate. He recently transitioned to using a communication application on his tablet, where when icons are selected, the application reads the name of the item or activity out loud, giving him a vocal voice.
Though his progress with alternative communication methods has been extraordinary, it has always been a goal of his team, his parents especially, for him to communicate with words. Needless to say, it was quite the emotional experience hearing him say “hi” for the first time. It is a word that I have spoken to him thousands of times since I have known him, and I always thought about the day he might be able to say it back. There are times that I still get teary-eyed listening to HIS voice because I know how hard he has worked to be able to use it. Every new word of his is a success and we will continue to celebrate each one.
Britney Catron, M.Ed., BCBA. LABA