The spectrum of ability in regards to Austism and speech is quite varied. Perhaps one of the reasons for the increase in diagnosis of Autism is that many years ago this diagnosis was reserved for those without any speech at all. Although Hayley had delayed speech she could make sounds. As her ability increased I would find her repeating phrases from movies. She had good voice inflection and could answer direct questions. Although the answers often were completely unrelated to the question.
It was during her interview for kindergarten that I first noticed that I had a subconscious knowledge of her vocabulary. Not that I could have sat down and made a list of the words she knew. But when someone asked her a question, I often found myself rephrasing it for Hayley. This served a dual purpose: First, it allowed me to model how to communicate with Hayley. Second, it allowed Hayley the greatest chance at being able to understand the teacher.
Because Hayley did have some language ability, my first and foremost goal was to expand that language. I found myself talking to her a lot. I acted out what I was trying to convey with dolls. Doing this provided the first signs of understanding and recognition beyond parroting. This allowed me to show, in my limited way, how people interact. The dolls became her role models and I used them often. When I could tell that she understood a phrase I would restate the phrase with one new word. This method was very successful with Hayley. One of her "special needs" teachers was disturbed that Hayley was interacting with the dolls on her t-shirt in class. She complained that this was disruptive. I shook my head and wondered how she might have felt differently had she witnessed how these dolls helped Hayley acquire her language skills.
For a long time Hayley was only capable of understanding "concrete" language and had a very literal understanding of it. Here are some examples.
Hayley: I spilled my milk.
Mom: Okay, take your plate over to the sink and I'll clean it up.
Hayley: You mean my bowl?
Mom: If I accidentally say plate instead of bowl you don't need to correct me. You know I was talking about what you were eating on.
Hayley: I don't eat on it, I eat out of it.
Three days after receiving a consequence to pick up trash at school during P. E. time up until Christmas, Hayley states in a sad voice at home: "I can't come to Thanksgiving because I have to pick up trash until Christmas.
Hayley picked up swearing at school. One day she was angry at me (again) and shouted the following:
"Son of a B----, I am a daughter of a B----. Oh, I'm sorry - I called you a son."
Note: Hayley approves this post. She just read it and laughed and said it was okay to share.