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Affirmation and the Pumpkin Wall

One of the most obvious signs of Holden’s autism is his unique speech patterns. I’ve said it before, but SOUND is Holden’s first language. Not English. He’s had to work VERY hard at speaking in words.  As his speech was developing, it seemed like it was 80% jabber. And the 20% that was made up of real words was echolalic. The fascinating thing now, is to study the changes in his speech.

He is speaking in sentences now, using words clearly and deliberately. He’s even asking questions like “what is this” and “where is ____” We’re not hearing any when’s, how’s, or why’s yet, but  I’m ecstatic that he’s more full of wonderment. And he loves to hear us read. He went through a long period of not being interested in books.

One of the most amazing feats he’s made lately, though, is that he’s saying YES/YEAH. It’s absolutely earth shattering. I cannot stress enough what a big deal that is! Whenever you asked him a question that required a yes/no answer, he would repeat the verb or noun rather than answer yes.

EXAMPLE
Me: “Do you like candy?”
H: “Candy”

Me: “Do you like to go to the park”

H: “Go to the park”

He’s not 100% now, but he’s saying YEA rather than repeating the word. It’s amazing. I took him to speech therapy all summer long and we worked on YES every time but it never seemed to stick. I finally just stopped trying to correct him, and figured maybe his way made more sense. I mean what does “yea” mean anyway. He wants to go to the park, so he says the words that mean something to him. Maybe we should all speak like that.

But all of the sudden, within the last week, he’s started to answer “yea.” I don’t know who helped him do that – but I’m so happy about it.

The thing about autism is that they have to work so darn hard at being “normal.” Or really I should say “neurotypical.” Take his artwork below. Look at the wall of Jack O’ Lanterns from right to left: pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin … they’re all obviously pumpkins except for Holden’s (bottom left).

Holden's Class of Jack O Lanterns

And yet, this is a masterpiece for Holds. You should see his artwork from 8 months ago. He would only draw 3 straight lines. And be done. Every single time he would draw. Then he started drawing squiggly lines. Now he’s adding more detail. But I just stare at his artwork and think: he is amazing. He’s navigating through a mass of white matter where his neurons are having a hard time connecting up correctly. Well, at least, that’s the “Under-Connectivity Theory” anyway. Check out this video about the autistic brain.

The world to him must be such a strange place. And socially it’s just going to get more complicated. There are so many unspoken social rules that we all obey without even realizing it. And each has to be purposefully taught to kids on the spectrum. I’m amazed at my son. He’s made huge progress and is just pretty darn neat.

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2 thoughts on “Affirmation and the Pumpkin Wall

  1. Okay, first of all, what a beautiful child! Seriously. To call him a “cutie” would be such the understatement.
    Congratulations on the “yes/yeah” answering! That is huge. I remember when we hit that milestone with Lacie. It felt like such a shift in her whole understanding. I can’t even remember when it happened or how or anything, but just that I noticed a big shift when it did happen. We’re definitely not there with Hyrum. He still does the repeating noun thing. Now that I understand a bit more about what’s going on w/ my kids, I’m realizing the significance of it.
    And by the way, his pumpkin rocks. Plus, he’s the only one that fully utilized all the drawing space. 🙂

    I appreciate your posting about Holden. I think you’re brave. It helps me.

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