ARCHIE’S AUTISM JOURNEY #5 | A SPEECH THERAPY UPDATE

Archie has been having ongoing speech therapy since October last year, it seems like even longer that he had his first speech therapy session. Whilst he hasn’t made a huge amount of progress in regards to actual words, he has come on in leaps & bounds in regards to his responsiveness.

One thing I wasn’t aware off at the start of Archie’s Autism Journey is that Speech Therapy isn’t just about speech. It’s about communication, and the therapy is tailored to each child based on their levels on communication. Archie had the usual baby babble and at around 9-10 months he started with the ma-ma-ma, da-da-da and we thought he was progressing nicely but then everything changed. One day he just went silent, no more babble, no noise at all, unless he was crying which wasn’t actually that often. We didn’t really think too much of it but the longer it progressed the more worried I got, especially as he was completely unresponsive.

The Health Visitor also thought it was worrying, especially as he did start with the usual babble but then regressed. Eventually I insisted on a hearing test as I couldn’t even get him to look at me but two audiology appointments at the hospital proved he could hear just fine, there was something else causing his speech delay and unresponsiveness. This is when it was suggested he was showing a high level of Autistic Tendencies, this coupled with his regression meant that we were referred to Speech & Language and received our first assessment very quickly, within two weeks. I was surprised at how fast we were seen but it down to the severity of his communication issues and the regression that meant he was a high priority.

Archie had four monthly sessions with the Speech Therapist and he did begin to show a little more responsive, there were no words or even sounds but a response, a head nod, holding his attention for a little longer all meant that he was moving forward, albeit not quite at the pace they expected. From this is was decided that he needed a more intensive 6 week block session.

Each week we saw little signs of progress but also little signs of regression, it kind of feels like one step forward and two steps back. He started getting really frustrated with the sessions, the Speech Therapist was trying to guide him in the activities whereas Archie just wanted to be left alone to play. If it was something he was interested in such a bubbles then we were able to hold his attention for longer periods. But as soon as the bubbles were taken away to encourage him to ‘ask’ for more the meltdowns began, he was getting so distressed & even hitting her that for the last three sessions he barely lasted thirty minutes into the hour session.

Once the six weeks were up it was decided that he needed a break, it was all getting too much for him. Along with his speech therapy he has to see two separate paediatricians , one for his allergies & food issues and the other who is a specialist in Autism & learning disabilities. He also has issues with his feet as his toes overlap each other (which is another blog post in itself), so we have to attend Orthopaedics so he has a lot of people prodding & poking him so I can see why he’s getting so overwhelmed.

Today was another Speech & Language assessment to see what progress he’s made in the past six weeks without the sessions and I’m very happy to say it was a positive one. He can now say the word ‘no’, which has had a massive impact on us all. It was absolutely incredible to hear how the word developed from a ‘meow’ sound to a clear ‘no’ after such a struggle with his speech. Just being able to say what he doesn’t want when we offer him choices has relieved a lot of his frustrations. He’s also a lot more verbal in the sense that he’s actually making noise. There’s no attempt at other words yet but just making ooh’s & aaah’s & uh oh’s is a huge step for him.

Throughout the past six months of therapy we’ve been trying to introduce Makaton but we really struggle to get him to look at us, therefore he’s just not been picking it up. Plus, in the assessment she mentioned that it is quite fast paced using hand gestures so if you can’t hold a child’s attention then it will be much harder to learn. Instead we’re going to try ‘objects’ as Archie is very visual, we have been offering him choices such as an apple or banana & he will reach out for the one he wants.

With the ‘objects’ we’ll be assigning an object for each word, eg a plastic cup for drink, a plastic item of food for lunch, a little bed for bedtime, and using each object when we speak each word to him. Hopefully this will provide the visual link for him to start communicating with us. He will be able to ask for what he wants using the relevant object. Once he has grasped this, the next stage will be to move onto pictures.

I’m really hopeful this will help Archie as it’s heartbreaking seeing his get so frustrated, which leads to lots of crying, screaming & eventually a major meltdown. He’s made so much progress and it’s all steps in the right direction. I’m just so happy we’ve got such a great Health Visitor & therapists who all want the best for him.

I’ll write a separate post about the actual activities and what the sessions entail if that’s of interest to anyone. Have your little ones had communication issues? How are you dealing with it?

 

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29 Comments

  1. May 19, 2015 / 7:52 pm

    Have they suggested PECS? This worked really well with Ethan. He doesn’t do it now as he is more vocal with noise towards me but I know they use it at school x
    Jane – Our Little Escapades recently posted…The Disney Café at HarrodsMy Profile

    • May 19, 2015 / 7:56 pm

      That’s the next stage, we’re just really struggling with responsiveness & actually getting his attention so she thinks the objects will be helpful
      In the meantime x

  2. May 19, 2015 / 10:16 pm

    Bless his little heart he is so cute 🙂 glad you have a great network of support around you, nice to know you are not alone. Thanks for sharing.
    Emma recently posted…Life tips from my 5 year oldMy Profile

  3. May 20, 2015 / 11:14 am

    Oh bless you. I can only imagine how heartbreaking this must be for you and for gorgeous little Archie. We had a stint where we visited speech therapy for Holly when she had a stammer, but although there are some times when she still does this, we hope that she has grown out of it slightly. I’m so pleased that Archie is making progress in baby steps though and wish you all the luck in the world that this positive journey continues. Steph xxxc
    Steph recently posted…Interiors: Yellow LivingMy Profile

  4. May 20, 2015 / 1:47 pm

    I hadn’t thought about speech therapy being about communication rather than just speech. Sounds like he’s making good progress now – hope that continues.
    Erica Price recently posted…The First Holy CommunionMy Profile

    • May 20, 2015 / 6:32 pm

      No, me either but it’s about communication in any form to eventually get to the speech so it’s tailored based on the child. Archie’s speech hasn’t really progressed so they’re taking an alternative route to get there x
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  5. May 20, 2015 / 8:18 pm

    Like Erica, I hadn’t really thought about speech therapy being as much about communication in any sense as it is about speech specifically. I can’t begin to imagine how hard this must be, especially seeing Archie get so frustrated. It does sound as if you have a lot of support there, I hope it continues to help x
    Sara (@mumturnedmom) recently posted…Childhood: swim team tryoutsMy Profile

    • May 22, 2015 / 5:55 pm

      It really is so hard for all of. It’s so hard for Archie as he has no way of telling us what he wants & it’s hard for us dealing with it both in the day to day but also not knowing if or when he might start talking. This is why we are working on other methods of communication to try and move one step closer x
      Gym Bunny Mummy recently posted…A Mummy Weekend Away | The Dream vs RealityMy Profile

  6. May 21, 2015 / 10:06 am

    Miss S never got to grips with object references, so we switched straight to PECS, Archie sounds very similar to how she was. She has progressed from pecs to word strips and although still pretty much non verbal she can make verbal requests and has constant echolia, shes now 7 and attends a specialist autism school. Its only in the 2 years she has been there and has daily therapy that you can see the difference. Its a long road and can be very frustrating but its so worth it when you hear a new word xxx #SSAA
    Amanda Walsh recently posted…I can’t get no sleepMy Profile

    • May 22, 2015 / 5:56 pm

      He’s not made any verbal progression & as he’s seems to be much more responsive when we show him things, such as sowing him his shoes, coat etc they think it’s worth trying this out. I’m happy to keep trying anything if it’ll help x
      Gym Bunny Mummy recently posted…A Mummy Weekend Away | The Dream vs RealityMy Profile

  7. May 22, 2015 / 11:03 am

    I was going to suggest PECS too! although Sir never used them or Makaton for that matter at home he did use it at school.
    Your son is very much like mine was at the same age. Sir is almost 11 now and his speech has come on in leaps and bounds. It might take your lad a while but he’ll get there. Sir’s “big improvement” started at around 7 years old.
    Hang in there!
    karenblower recently posted…New blog addressMy Profile

    • May 22, 2015 / 5:57 pm

      Thanks so much Karen, it’s great to hear from someone in a similar situation. We’re hopeful it will come one day as he is now making some noise, we just have to keep working hard with him x
      Gym Bunny Mummy recently posted…A Mummy Weekend Away | The Dream vs RealityMy Profile

  8. May 23, 2015 / 2:02 am

    This is really interesting. Glad you have so much support, & hope progression continues – it’s heartbreaking for a child to be frustrated because they can’t communicate their wants & needs.

    It is great you’re sharing your experiences. The more people who understand autism and how it affects people the better.
    Silly Mummy recently posted…ReadingMy Profile

    • May 24, 2015 / 8:10 pm

      Thanks for the comment. That’s exactly how I feel, someone commented today that he doesn’t ‘look’ like he’s got Autism but it’s not something you can tell just by looking at a child. That’s why I write about our experiences x
      gymbunnymummy recently posted…Sunday Sweets Linky | 24th May 2015My Profile

  9. May 25, 2015 / 12:59 pm

    It must be frustrating for him and for you not to be able to tell you what he needs but it sounds like he is really starting to progress. I’m sure saying no is one of the best words to; as least you know he isn’t keen!! I think the visual cues is a great idea and hopefully will be successful xx #maternitymondays
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  10. May 25, 2015 / 2:23 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and your journey as a family with autism. It’s misunderstood by anyone who hasn’t had to deal with it directly. I as a soccer coach had a high functioning autistic player join the team and had to take a crash course from the parents and understand how to have him fit in to the team as the other players knew there was something a little different about him. So with the parents suggestion I called a team meeting kids and parents and the parents did a question answer session with everyone and we never had any issues on or off the field and that boy ended up being one of my best players once I knew what he needed from me as his coach 🙂 Thank you for linking on #wineandboobs
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    • May 28, 2015 / 10:03 pm

      That’s so great how you handled it, I bet both him & his parents were so grateful. Autism can be very hard to understand as it can affect children so differently. I just hope by sharing our story we can help others understand a little better
      gymbunnymummy recently posted…5 Ways to Make a Small Bedroom Feel BigMy Profile

  11. May 25, 2015 / 4:03 pm

    Ah hon it sounds like such a journey! I’m really glad to hear there has been progress and that is helping. Sounds like you have a great team and support and I hope everything continues to improve! Thanks for linking with #MaternityMondays
    Caroline (Becoming a SAHM) recently posted…Little Miss at 7 monthsMy Profile

  12. May 26, 2015 / 7:29 am

    So happy to read there has been progress but I can understand how frustrating it must be, for you and him, not being able to communicate those needs. I’m just glad you have lots of support, and of course we’re all here if you ever need a vent, it can’t be easy, but you are doing a fantastic job! #maternitymondays xx
    Jade (Raising the Rings) recently posted…I can finally say I’m having a baby this weekMy Profile

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