Spotlight on Special Thinker: Joaquin

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 / Leave a Comment

Today we meet Joaquin, son of "Ausome" Mom from the Ausome Life Blog.
You can follow her on IG as well, I do!! (@ausomelife)

When Joaquin was diagnosed with Autism at age 2 he was completely non-verbal. Before he could verbally communicate he did attempt to communicate in other ways. His preferred method of communication was to pull and guide us. He still prefers to point, and hand us the things that he wants. Although, he is able to use these alternative methods of communication, as a parent I have always had a desire to hear him use his voice. After a year of various different therapies and interventions (speech, ot, sensory integration, ABA), I was fortunate enough to hear his first word. His first word came at age 3, and it was the most incredible word ever. His first word was the word Duck!

I would like to say that his language just exploded after that, as is common in most typically developing children. However, language development was still very slow and challenging. Although, he seemed to be picking up more words, he had a very hard time using them spontaneously, and consistently. He still needed a lot of support to get those one word utterances out. Eventually, we did start to see him sporadically use 2 word phrases, and I was so excited. Every time he hit in a new milestone I was just sure the flood gates were about to open and he would just start having full blown conversations with me. I thought to myself, soon I will be telling him to be quite because he is just talking too much! Of course, that was not the case. About 6 months passed and it seemed like Elias language had just plateaued.

In September 2013, a few months after he turned 4, we discovered that Joaquin is Hyperlexic. He has always been very passionate about arranging letters and spelling words. At one point we noticed that he was reading. He would just pick up random books, like my books on coaching or feminism, and he would just be reading the titles out loud. After doing some research I learned that this talent of his is actually called Hyperlexia. This is a learning difference, that some children have where they actually learn to read and write but struggle with verbal communication. Upon learning this about him I immediately started speaking to his teachers and entire therapy team. I rallied everyone to change how we were teaching him. I'm a strong believer and advocate for teaching children how they learn. So we all started to include more visual and written communication for him. I took 1 week off from work to make our home more Hyperlexic friendly for him. I created charts for him and communication boards. I also organized and labeled everything around the house... the P-touch was my new best friend! The good news is that in 4 months of changing our teaching approach. Joaquin went from using 2 word phrases (ex. want bread) to using 5 word phrases with minimal prompting (ex. I want to eat bread). Incredible!

One of the most important things I love to share with parents that are raising children on the spectrum, is that you should not be afraid to try a different approach. Pay attention to your child’s interest, how they interact and interpret the world, they are trying to tell you something. Use these findings to try different things with your child, eventually you will find an approach that works best. At the same time try not to get too frustrated when an approach that worked before is no longer working, sometimes they need a break, or sometimes it could be that they need a new approach, they might be bored.

Autism is definitely a journey, and there is no one right way for everyone. You will pick up and learn so many things about how your child learns and thrives along the way. I hope that one of the most wonderful things you will find along your journey in raising a child that thinks differently, is that you too will start to think differently. You will learn when to pay attention to your training, and when to pay attention to your intuition. You will learn to think creatively about how to help your child. You will learn to think of your child’s learning difference, not as a disability, but as a different way of accessing information and interpreting the world. Our role is to unlock those differences, and be the missing piece they need to thrive in this world. Be their biggest fan, their best advocate, their parent! 

Thank you so much for sharing your son's story with us, Melina!!! I LOVE that his first word was "duck!" So AUSOME!! :)post signature

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