Early Learning – A Child with Autistic Tendencies

A Story by Cherry Davis

At the age of 2 1/2 years old, our daughter was evaluated and we were told she had “autistic tendencies“. This was 20 years ago when they did not necessarily want to label a child. She did not receive the diagnosis of PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified) until age 9. Her language skills were that of a 4-16 month old at that initial evaluation. We were told after one year that perhaps we should consider institutionalization as she might not be teachable nor even trainable. This of course, was not a consideration for us. We knew in our hearts that everything was going to work out somehow in the long run.
We did then and still do continue to have a great deal of hope for her future. After two years in special needs pre-school programs with intensive one-on-one teaching and speech therapy, her language was still very limited and had a tendency to be “muffled”. Her speech sounded as though she were talking through a glass.

One day I arrived to take her home from her school and the staff greeted me with, “Your child said a whole sentence today, clear as a bell”. Well, I can tell you I was so excited! An entire sentence??? That had never occurred. Words all strung together that made sense and in a sharp crisp manner? That was so wonderful! I couldn’t wait to hear what she said. Was it in regards to her day or maybe she actually noticed what other kids or adults were doing and made a comment about someone else. Wouldn’t that be wonderful if she made eye contact and followed through with a comment about something she saw or felt! My heart plummeted after the next comment from the staff members. “Yes, she spoke in a full sentence, clear as a bell, but we simply cannot have her talking like this”.
Now, I was confused–she spoke, a full sentence, something she hadn’t done in four years of life and they didn’t want her to do it again? The “incident” happened when they were finger painting. All the children were being asked to cover their hands with red fingerpaint and then make a picture of their choice. Well, another area that she was very loudly vocal was when textures were not to her liking—usually screeching was her way of expressing herself. However, on this particular day, in front of all the teachers and the other twelve students, she decided to proclaim loudly and clearly, “I am NOT sticking my hands in that red sh__t”.

I was speechless at that point myself! I was thrilled that she had felt something with such emotion that she had to strongly object, however, I knew that “cussing” was not the way to go about it! I promised that I would try to work on her “language problem at home”.
As I left with her I was cheering internally while smiling and trying to explain to a child who I wasn’t sure could understand me, how it was not polite to use certain words at all, ever.
To this day, she has not used an “improper” social word in my presence.

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