ALWAYS PRESUME COMPETENCE!

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At the end of the year, I wrote in my year-end review that I believed a non-verbal, 7-year-old student I work with would acquire verbal skills in the coming year.

Just recently, after practicing the “m” sound with him for over a year, he suddenly mastered it. Building on the sounds he already makes, I had pointed out to him that the humming sound he makes (with fingers in his ears to block out noise) is the same sound as the letter “m” at the beginning of words like “more” and “mom”—and he connected the dots! He started to copy the “m” sound when prompted, first with his fingers in his ears, and then without. Shortly after this, pointing at the word “Mom” that I had printed out in big bold letters for him, he sounded out m-o-m for the first time. After practicing more and encouraging him to say it real fast, he said “Mom!” You should have seen the look and big grin on his face—and the tears in my eyes! Around that time, he also started imitating the “h” sound, so putting the two together, we worked on saying, “Hi Mom!” He worked so hard, and was so excited that he could do it!

Some days later, when Mom picked him up, I asked her to sit down in the lobby for a moment as her son wanted to tell her something. She looked at me puzzled, but sat down. When I prompted him to say, “Hi Mom,” he did wonderfully! Mom laughed and cried at the same time, and hugged him tight—and he grinned from ear to ear!

Besides this being a very rewarding moment, it taught me to always presume competence and dream big dreams for autistic children. With faith and perseverance, our dreams can come true!

My student has been proving this daily, and he continues to make progress. Just yesterday, he spontaneously said, “Bye.”

 

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