A child’s first words are a significant milestone in development. As parents, we often record these words in our memory books and look forward to our children being able to tell us what they are thinking, feeling, how they are hurting, and that they love us. Recently, I had the absolute privilege of hearing a child use his verbal speech for the first time. He is 9 years old and has been a student of mine for two years. Up until this point he was not showing much interest in communicating using any means of the total communication approach. His family, teachers, and I still expose him to communication all day long. We use verbal speech, written words, picture cues, objects, hand-over-hand prompts, simple signs, communication boards, plus more. We keep our expectations high.
That week during my co-teaching group, I was using the story “Bear Wants More” with a story board and picture cues. With the repetitive story line we were also emphasizing the use of the sign for “more” (one of my favorites!). I noticed he was engaged with the story, sitting in his seat, and making eye contact. We were about half way through the book when the magic happened! We were going around the table rubbing our tummy and saying “yummy” (to go along with that part of the story) and he said “yu-ye”. All of the adults in the room looked at each other wondering if we really just heard intentional speech. Well that was answered quickly because he repeated it upon request each and every time!! We heard words including yummy, more, big, bear, and surprise. He did use sound approximations for many consonants but they were intentional and consistent. Throughout the rest of the story he imitated any word I said. And when we got to the end I tried something with the repetitive line “Bear wants more”. I only signed more without saying it. Guess what, he signed it then said it independently! WOW!!!! We were cheering, crying, clapping, smiling, and dancing around the room! The other students in the group wanted to get in on this excitement too…they all stepped up their game so that we would cheer for them too 🙂
This is such a testament to persevering, both for the child and the adults in their life! It was such an amazing feeling to know that in that moment, reading “Bear Wants More”, opportunities for this child just opened up. He will be able to communicate his wants, needs, thoughts, hopes, and desires. This “job” is such a precious gift to me!