Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Kevin and Cali and Autism

My husband maintains the autistic brain has two pathways. The pathway for babbling and self-stim speech and the pathway for real speech, real expression. Kevin, my autistic son, will be 20 next week, and we have been observing his speech as he's grown. Slowly his real expression has become a larger percentage of his total speech.

I find it interesting to note what triggers real speech from him. In a typical day, his real speech comes from answering questions and he'll only answer questions he wants to. At home, most of these have to do with food, like "What do you want to have for dinner?" He rarely expresses something without a prompt. But it's there and I take joy when I experience it.

The first time I remember impromptu speech was when he was 10 or 12 or so when we picked the kids up from aftercare. Somehow the routine was off that day, maybe our daughter got in on the opposite side of the van, so the door on Kevin's side was still open. As we started to back out of the driveway he exclaimed the door wasn't closed. Dan and I stared at each other in amazement.

We have a new member of the Anneshouse household. Cali is a dog we acquired from CG's fiance because her son is very allergic and Cali couldn't live with them when their households were combined. Cali's a wonderful dog, about 9 or 10 year-old chow-lab mix, very settled and calm.

Kevin has been afraid of animals for as long as we can remember so we took on Cali with much trepidation, but hope. In the beginning he couldn't be in house at the same time as her. We used a lot of pet gates to keep the two separated but visible to each other. Dan tended to be more conservative when it came to getting Kevin acclimated to Cali than I was. I wanted to carefully force issues to show Kevin she was nothing to be afraid of. I would hold his hand so she could take a treat from it even though he'd pull back as soon as he could.

Fast-forward six weeks and Kevin now pets Cali and freely gives her treats, no gates are used, and he even reluctantly takes her for occasional walks. The other night I sent Kevin out with Cali on one such walk. He told her to "sit" so he could snap the leash on. They then went ahead while I got my shoes on. When I caught up with them I heard him talking to her with very expressive language. She likes to smell everything, as dogs do, sometimes taking them well off the path. Kevin was very clear about telling her where to go and where she didn't belong. I was thrilled. I am thrilled. I'm glad gently forcing Kevin to do things out of his comfort zone has improved his expressive speech and opened up that pathway more.



LaRita Jacobs said...

Awesome post. I think ALL of us need to be "gently forced" out of our comfort zones from time to time. That's how we grow.

Sally Bramald said...

I think this is wonderful, truly wonderful.