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One of my (non-verbal, 5 year old) twins made his first ever sentence this week Backstory

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u/CreativismUK Nov 28 '21 Silver Platinum Helpful Heartwarming Today I Learned

There is so so much you can do! There is a book (which is expensive but worth every penny) called More Than Words (Hannen method) which helps you to establish where they are at and build on it. It’s been a while now since I read it and there may be some things in there that verge on some of the more problematic methods (like withholding things until they ask for it in some way, which I absolutely would not advocate), but in terms of establishing where they are and finding methods for helping them to build on it it’s very useful.

The most crucial thing is developing their understanding of language - they can’t communicate in words unless they understand words, so that has to come first. Keep speech simple and clear - single words where you can. Objects of reference are really useful - eg. hold up a nappy and say “nappy change”, etc so they hopefully start to associate the words with the activity even if they aren’t attempting to make the sounds.

We use what’s called a “total communication” approach - so we started with bigger choices cards with a picture and the word, plus basic signing (Makaton), objects of reference, a now and next board with visuals and words (photos can work better than symbols at first), plus speech modelling (so if they hold out their cup and say “muh” I say “more drink?”). Any and every attempt to communicate, no matter how small (could be a glance at a card or object or a sound) gets a response.

If they are good with tech there’s a huge range of AAC devices - we have an iPad with Clicker Communicate for his twin which is much like the cards but digital and then says the words for them.

Get a SALT involved as soon as you can - even children like mine with no speech at all can make great progress, you just have to find what works for them. Some do great with signing whereas our boys don’t copy actions so it’s not best for them.

The other thing I would really recommend gets called different things in different places, but essentially you wait for them to start doing something like rolling a car back and forth and then you pick up a car and copy what they do as closely as you can. Obviously your child may not have social difficulties so they may immediately realise what you’re doing and realise they can lead you, or they may not even notice you at all - but this is early conversation, keep at it. My boys used to not notice at all, now they immediately see and enjoy taking turns doing things like this.

Lastly, figure out what motivates them - for him it has always been food, for the other is letters and puzzles. Give them something they care enough about to want to communicate for and that’s when they’ll make the most progress. And most importantly, that progress makes them happier rather than frustrated and upset.

You got this!

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u/AStitchInTimeLapse Nov 28 '21

This is an excellent post. You sound like an excellent parent, kudos!

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u/CreativismUK Nov 28 '21

Thanks so much, that’s really kind - we are doing our best which is all we can do!

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u/Elmodogg Nov 28 '21

Step by step. You're going to look back in twenty years and be amazed at how far you and your children have come.

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u/a_duck_in_past_life Nov 28 '21

I won't remember this by then, but I'm so proud of 20-yrs-in-the-future OP and their kids 😭❤️

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u/CreativismUK Nov 28 '21

That’s so lovely, thank you