One of the big parts of autism is a deficit in communication. Communication is both verbal and non-verbal. A child can communicate and be on the autism spectrum.
Trenton is my 5 1/2 year old non-verbal child. Trenton has the ability to say a few words. For example, I never thought a year ago that he would be saying my name daily but he does! I hear it numerous times a day and I can't tell you how amazing it is to hear daily. He almost says it non-stop! While in his ABA setting he will use a few words. If he wants juice he will tell me, "juice". If he wants pizza, he will say, "pizza". If he is watching a video and wants to watch Elmo, he will say, "elmo." However, as far as being able to communicate anything else to me, it is very slim. If he is hurting or doesn't feel good, he can't express anything. If he wants to go somewhere, he can't tell me. He can't tell me anything past what he wants to drink or eat.
Many individuals on the spectrum are able to use a communication device. As of right now, this is very limited for Trenton. He is unable to use it. On random days, he has been able to communicate and press a button on it. However, over all, his communication on a device is extremely limited as well.
I will never give up hope that he will be able to communicate one day. I don't focus and pray for speech, but I pray for communication. I hope and pray that his life can be eased a little with the ability of communicating on a device one day. If he is able to speak and use words verbally than of course I will be overjoyed and happy. However, I just want him to communicate. I don't care how, I just want him to communicate.
I believe a lot of the reason why he can't communicate on a device just yet is partly because of his sensory processing disorder. It is just simply too much to look at a screen and see options. His brain does not take in the information like a neurotypical person's brain does. We can look at a communication device and see each button. Trenton looks at it and sees a bowl of vegetable soup where everything is all jumbled up together and his brain is unable to let him focus on the device. It takes something very small to get Trenton's brain over stimulated and then he can't focus at all nor can he filter out anything which just leads to more communication breakdowns.
Nonetheless, I will always devote every ounce of sweat I have to help him in life and this is one area where he focus a lot on.
Andrew, on the other hand, can communicate. He had echolalia really bad when he was 2 and 3 years old. However, through his hard work in therapies he has overcame that. Andrew still has many breakdowns in communication.
Andrew can get over stimulated and he is unable to express himself during these times. He will tell me that he is unable to use his words or that his mouth can't talk. When he says something like that, I make sure he is in a quiet environment, such as his bedroom, and I let him calm down from his over-stimulated state.
Andrew's communication has a breakdown at times when he is in a bigger crowd or unfamiliar place. During these times, he will regress to just repeating or using some echolalia. I know during these times that his brain isn't clear and often referred to as a "foggy" state.
If Andrew is overloaded with a lot of verbal information , he can't process it all. He will stay focused on the first thing that he heard and miss everything else. This can often be recognized because he is repeating the first or the last part that he processed.
Andrew takes in information much better if it is broken down into small increments for him.
Andrew takes language very literal. If someone uses language and Andrew doesn't understand the meaning of it, he will focus or become obsessed with it and tune everything else out while he focuses on the "literal" language that took him for a loop. Sometimes the whole rest of his day is focused on what he heard earlier that he didn't understand. I have learned this the hard way a few times:)
As you can see both of my boys have autism, yet both are totally opposites in the area of communication and every other area of autism.
I am so proud of both of them and how hard they work every day. They are truly my heroes in this life. I am so blessed to be their Mom!!