I remember it so clearly. When I was only a small child, words wouldn’t flow from my brain to the tip of my tongue very easily. When they did, they were often the wrong ones or spoken in the wrong volume. It was incredibly frustrating and it is something many autistic people can empathize with. Parents even notice it with their children and it can create an atmosphere of frustration, for both the child and parent.
As I got older, my speech progressed significantly and I eventually learned to communicate effectively with other people, thanks to my mother and speech therapists along the way. It certainly wasn’t an easy journey and many ask me how my linguistics progressed so rapidly . So I thought I would provide some easy advice on assisting this transition.
The first part is PATIENCE! I cannot stress that enough. Many children progress with language at differing rates. I couldn’t communicate overly well until I was around six or seven years old. I never felt rushed when learning to structure sentences, I was always given my own space to learn. When adults are pressurized, they can become “tongue tied” or “speechless” even with a full vocal range. Don’t create a cognitive pattern that a child can associate speaking with pressure would be my best advice.
On the continuing topic of pressure, finding alternative and other forms of communication can be extremely helpful. I was able to read and write at a much higher level than my peers when I was very small. I used to write things down so that I could be both understood and improve my writing and reading techniques. When I learned to read and write, I started to read aloud and use these words to converse over time. I still read and write a lot and I find it helps me to get my point across more effectively over time.
In today’s world it is so easy to compare. When one child doesn’t progress as quickly as the next, it automatically leads to fear and doubt in the minds of many parents. There are so many factors that could be blamed, but blaming solves nothing. This automated response to compare doesn’t help and if four year old Jude Morrow was compared to other four year old children, my parents would probably have succumbed to defeat.
I meet autistic people a lot! I have heard from many that they didn’t speak until after seven or eight years old. There is no set time in which people can learn to communicate verbally, with the right support. There is no accepted time limit. Autistic children tend to learn at their own pace, I know I certainly did.
When I was signing books at an event last year, I was asked to write a personalized inscription into the inside of the book. The book was for a five year old non-verbal autistic girl. After some thought, I wrote inside “take the time to listen, and one day you will sing”. It has become my favorite inscription inside any copy I have signed. That advice stands for everyone, patience is key.
Jude Morrow is an autistic author, motivational speaker and social worker from Derry, Ireland. Jude’s debut book “Why Does Daddy Always Look So Sad?” is published by Beyond Words and available now from all major online retailers and book stores. For more on Jude – visit www.judemorrow.com