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Behind the Breakthroughs

Sep 19, 2018

This is the fourth vignette that Dr. Nunez shares. In this vignette Dr. Nunez talks about the beauty of first words and the rewards of teaching children with autism how to communicate. She encourages parents to trust the process and always push for more.

In this episode Dr. Nunez gives many examples of how to teach language to a child with autism. She encourages parents to ALWAYS expect more from their child. If your child is saying sounds get them to say words, if they are saying words get them to talk in sentences, if your child is talking in sentences then get them to converse and engage in reciprocal conversations. It takes a lot of patience and belief. The reward is being able hear your child’s beautiful voice.


  • In this episode Dr. Nunez talks about first words and getting children to talk and communicate.
  • Nunez and Maylene start each show with a quote and they look up inspirational quotes that fit each episode.
  • This week was hard to find a quote to fit the episode of a child’s first words.
  • Usually a child with autisms first word is not mama or dada. Some children say the thing they like the most such as Mickey, bubble, car, etc.
  • However, with our clientele it doesn’t matter what their first word is, when a non-verbal child begins to talk your heart swells with love and you can see tears in parent’s eyes.
  • Our client’s first words are an extremely rewarding experience.
  • The number one reason Dr. Nunez is in this profession is hearing a client’s first word and knowing that she had a part in making language “click” for a child.
  • It makes her heart happy and is one of the best feelings in the world. It is a natural high.
  • Language is very important and when getting a child to communicate the standards must be set high for him/her.
  • Recently Dr. Nunez and Maylene have been getting several clients to say their first words.
  • For whatever reason, many children who are non-verbal are resistant to language and will cry when encouraging him/her to communicate.
  • Continue to push through the cries and resistance until you reach that “aha” moment. Your child will push through it and get there.
  • Parents should know it takes a lot of patience and BELIEF!
  • Parents need to trust the process and always push for more.
  • If your child is saying sounds get them to say words. If they are saying words get them to talk in sentences. If your child is saying sentences get them to converse in reciprocal conversations.
  • We often take for granted the things that we naturally pick up on like what a fire hydrant is and its function, what a curb on the street is, etc.
  • Whatever level your child is at with language just TALK. Use simple language and talk about EVERYTHING. Your child is a sponge and is taking in everything.
  • Children with autism like repetition and eventually they will start repeating the language you model for them.
  • Work on imitation with your child, especially imitation of sounds.
  • Imitate the sounds that your child says the most (i.e. baba, gaga, etc.)
  • Give that sound meaning like baba is for bubbles.
  • The beauty is hearing your child’s voice and knowing that their sounds begin to have some meaning.

MINDSHIFTS (takeaways)

  1. Never stop talking to your child. Immerse them in a world of language. Think of life as a movie script. Kids with autism like to script movies so you become that movie script. Script routines in the morning at mealtime or chores and label everything!
  2. If your child is highly verbal DO NOT talk for your child. You are doing them a disservice. Allow your child to struggle through and process through, allow them to stumble, allow them to problem solve. Give them the time to speak because this will allow for fluency in language as well as allowing them to express their thoughts and feelings.