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?