When one young child started programming at the Skowhegan Children’s Center in December of 2015, he was nonverbal, had difficulty sitting in a chair, struggled attending to tasks, and had no interest in playing outside. The child has come along way since then. He now communicates with his Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) book for food items, toys, art supplies, and social attention (he loves to be tickled) and even imitate sounds and words. He always vocalizes, “I want,” when asking for an item. He can sit and attend to art projects, circle time, and meals, where he now uses a fork and spoon. He loves going outside to swing and climb the ladders on our new playground. Children’s Center staff and other providers adore him and cannot wait to see where the future takes him. No matter where it is, it’s sure to be bright.
The Children’s Center welcomed one remarkable little boy to the autism program when he was only two-years-old. He entered into services with no functional form of communication, which caused him a great deal of frustration. He sometimes cried, screamed, flopped, and stomped his feet when he was unable to find a way to meet his wants and needs. He showed no interest in engaging with others, often avoiding eye contact and focusing solely on objects.
Once he began learning symbol-based communications, he quickly understood the concept and excelled with the skill. He realized the process required another person to receive the message and address the want or need. This awareness created even more opportunities for interaction and engagement in activities. Staff could hardly keep up with his rapidly developing skills.
Once his team completed an augmentative communication device assessment, staff introduced an iPad to use for communication. The first time he was able to meet a want by pressing symbols on the device, hearing the device state, “I want juice,” and witnessing a staff person respond promptly to that request, the entire classroom jumped for joy and beamed with pride, including this little boy. He had figured it out, and he knew it.
Now, the child has become so advanced with the device, he has been teaching staff. He’s not only communicating wants and needs, but commenting on things going on around him and interacting with peers. He’s able to say he misses his mom when she’s at work and inform staff when he doesn’t feel well. Now that he has a way to communicate, he can participate in the world around him. He talks with his friends using the device and they talk back to him without reservation.
His new form of communication has unveiled his strong creativity, problem solving skills, and perseverance. He is even reading, requesting songs during circle, and spelling his name. He will undoubtedly continue to make enormous gains over the course of the next year before entering public school. The possibilities are truly endless for this inspiring little boy.