How to teach children with autism to speak.

(Some children with autism will not need this method but it can be useful for those who are seriously speech delayed). It is my understanding that there is what is called an autism epidemic in the USA and around the world.  California it seems is especially afflicted in this way for some unknown reason, especially in a part of northern California named Granite Bay.  So there is probably more than one mother, aunty, grandmother, friend etc. out there who may benefit from what I am writing here.
I unfortunately seem to have scored an Australian record for this unhappy business.  I have put an article on my web site mentioning various comments made by people about autism in my family and also autism in general.
The article addresses the question about vaccines, in particular  the MMR vaccine particularly in regard to my oldest child (a daughter). The article gives my daughter’s full vaccination schedule and proves conclusively that she did not receive the MMR vaccine (Measles, Mumps and Rubella combined).
I mention this vaccine because there is a lot of fuss about the
connection between autism and this particular vaccine around the world and there are parents ready to sue governments in the USA and The UK because they maintain that they had normal children and then after the administration of the MMR vaccine their child, and in the case of a lady in Britain who has been with  4  or 5 different men supposedly 5 of her 6 children were “normal” and then became autistic due to the MMR vaccine.
Among her autistic children there were I think at least three different fathers.  So if autism has a genetic component as scientists in the field now  strongly suspect  it would not be too hard in her case to work out whether autism is coming from the mother’s side or the father’s side. (I point out here that autism has afflicted my family both in a sibling of mine who was born in 1965 and who is now deceased and in four of my  5 children), also my children all have the same dad.  If it’s genetic in the case of my children we have two generations of autism and unfortunately it all is on my side of the family.)
If you are interested the article on this is at:
My oldest child was very autistic at the age of 3 and because of this she could not speak. To a mother this is nothing short of alarming. This is the approach which was taken to help her to learn to speak. My daughter received 2 hours of occupational therapy at the largest hospital in Australia (Westmead) which
fortunately was on the same road as our previous home. (Fortunate because I could walk there with my daughter in a stroller. I don’t drive a car).  She received this help for 18 consecutive weeks.
What did they do with her?  Well they played games with her, rolled her over enormous beach balls, got her to play with puzzles and blocks etc.
etc.  This was done by an occupational therapist.  The speech therapist was negative to say the least.  At the end of many weeks of occupational therapy she announced to me that she could not give my daughter any speech therapy. When I asked her why she said it was because my daughter did not have any speech.  This was true but my daughter could hear and has working vocal cords and a brain. The occupational therapist made a bit of a blunder. She gave my daughter a lot of wooden blocks to see what my child would create with them. My daughter put them in a straight row.  Triumphantly the therapist announced “There you are, see she is autistic!”.  I replied “Yes she is autistic but why did you say that?”  “Because all your daughter did was put them in a straight row.  She cannot do anything constructive and sensible with them”.
I told the lady that my daughter had made a train with the blocks. “How do you know” She demanded to know. Because she told me I answered.  My daughter only had a word here or there but I as her mother was practically the only person who could understand her occasional word. Even the dads have difficulty with this understanding because of the fact that they spend much less time with the child than the child’s mother. The Autism association of New South Wales used to come to my home around this time once a week and do their best to stimulate her brain with puzzles and games. They also accompanied her and stayed with her at the local pre-school.  She would not stay there by herself. She cried a lot and became sick if she had to go independently. She was very afraid that no one would come and get her.  I only know what was bugging her at that stage because she
has since told me.
I went to all the church and school fetes and brought up as many
children’s books as I could.  Mainly second hand copies of the Little Golden books series. These were very cheap. Then I obtained large blank page art books.  The pictures from the books were cut out and put one to a page.
I broke down the structure of the English language to it very essence for my daughter. Then I went through the books with her on many occasions and
described with great emphasis slowly each picture in terms like this.
“RABBIT COOKS DINNER”
“BEAR MOWS LAWN”  etc.
The format of my speech was very slow and deliberate”.  The grammar was simply Noun verb noun.  All the trimming were left out.  It would have been futile to Say something like.  The rabbit is mowing the overgrown grass with his brand new  lawnmower.  Doing that to an autistic who is struggling with language problems will probably lose their attention and confuse them. It would even have been worse to say these words in a normal speed and level of voice. The idea in this is not to teach English or English grammar but to give to a child with autism a chance to understand the very beginning of language in this case English.
If the child with autism has this mode of learning to talk will they continue to speak like a newcomer to the USA or Australia or even worse than the beginner in the English class? The answer is no.  Because they can pick up a fuller grasp of the language later on from their parents, and those around them and from T.V. radio etc.
Believe me my daughter’s speech is fairly complex now but she needed this very basic stuff for a long period of time to get her brain started on the ideas of speech. Autism muddles the communication section of the brain and if you overload it with normal flowing language the poor kid sometimes can’t cope and then won’t make any progress in language/speech/understanding.
Mary Ann Matulis
(Australia)
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4 Responses to “How to teach children with autism to speak.”

  1. Sandy Says:

    Mary Ann,

    What a good and wonderful story. All I can say is how lucky she is to have a mother such as you, that was willing never to take “no” for an answer.

    I have a friend with a child who is autistic (high functioning)
    but he has moments that it is just a blank stare, never looks at you in your eyes, when focused on something it is so hard to get his attention. There are a few other things but she also has him on a no perservative, no corn syrup, and no gluten diet, which has truly seemed to help him also.

    If you do not mind, how old is your daughter now and does she live with you? I am so very proud of you for what you did for her.

    I have also added you to my blogroll and have had some views on your book of miracles.

    Take care and good and informative post. Sandy

  2. brendakaren Says:

    Brenda is now 29. She lives at home. Anthony has moderate mental retardation. He lives at home. He is 28. Julie who is 26 is a dental nurse. She has recently moved back home after living in an apartment for several years.

    John who is 25 is very autistic and lives in a group home. We visit him every week. Anne Maree is very autistic and lives at home. She is 22 years of age.

    (Brenda and Anthony have part time jobs).

    Our family runs a special novena to St Philomena the Wonder Worker for the healing of autism. It is at:

    http://missionbell.homestead.com/novenaforautisticchildren.html

  3. Sandy Says:

    Dear Mary,

    I did not know how to feel as I was reading this. Truly I did not. As a mother once again as with my daughter I have no clue as what to say.

    Then something did come over me and I thought, “How blessed these children were to have you. What a very special person you must be to God, for Him to entrust these children’s care to you.” It reminds me of the mantle of Our Lady. What a truly wonderful person she must have been to have been entrusted with the care of God’s Son. I think this “mantle” holds true for you also.

    Mary you are quite a remarkable person. That is truly all I know to say. Love, Sandy

  4. Maria Elias Says:

    Hi!!!!
    I have been so inspired by your blog , please email me or phone me.My name Is Maria and my little girl is 8 and has speech only talking when she wants something I live in Drummoyne Sydney so I’m not too far away from you.please contact me as mothers we will do anything to help our children and you are inspiring.I would love to learn from you so Can help my baby..
    Cheers
    maria74@live.com.au
    Maria

    Hi Maria, I have just emailed you my phone number and will be happy to chat with you.


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