Hi Ignisis88 -
I'm so glad that you posted your question! It's wonderful to hear that the girl that you're working with has improved her communication so much. As you observed, our special children and teenagers and adults all have so much to share, and it's a great reminder that even when someone can't speak very easily, that person still has meaningful thoughts and feelings to share.
The first thought that I have for you, as a way to help her speak more easily, is to help her find a way to feel more peaceful instead of feeling frustrated that she can't speak easily right now. When we are frustrated, we tighten our bodies, and perhaps this is making it harder for her to speak. In general, when we are frustrated, we are less effective at things we might want to accomplish. Helping her be more peaceful and relaxed would really help her continue to feel good about continuing to try to speak.
I would suggest reading Happiness is a Choise by Barry Neil Kaufman - and you could even read the book to her. It has some great tools on how to choose happiness even when we aren't able to do all of the things we might want to do.
The book is based on the Stimulus - Belief - Response model. The stimulus is anything that we perceive in our daily experience - a person smiling at us, another driver in a car on the highway, the weather, looking at ourselves in the mirror, etc. Our response is how we respond to that stimulus - we might feel a certain way (e.g. happy, sad, excited, frustrated, annoyed, hopeful, joyful, angry, etc.) and we might act a certain way (e.g. smile back at someone, stop looking at ourselves in the mirror, yell at someone, hug someone, etc.). The belief is how we choose to see the stimulus that we experience in our lives.
Many people live by the Stimulus - Response model. This means that what happens to us determines our experience - e.g. "He made me angry," or "She really made me happy" or "I can only be happy if I can learn how to speak". We become victims to what happens to us if we believe that the stimulus makes us respond in a certain way.
However, if you add the idea that it's our BELIEF that determines our response, then we are suddenly much more in charge of our lives. For example, if your friend experiences that her mouth does not have much sensation, she has a choice:
1) She can believe that this is bad for her because it isn't good to take so long to learn to talk, then she will feel frustrated.
2) Or, she can decide that this is good for her, because it gives her something to practice and work on in her life, and because it brings her closer to other people who can help her, then she will feel happy or content. She can decide to be excited by her journey.
So many people in this world are faced with huge physical challenges - and it is not whether we can walk or not walk - or whether we can talk or not talk - that determines how we live our lives. We can decide to take the physical challenge and meet it with comfort and optimism, and therefore feel much better in our lives.
The magical thing is that when we feel better, our brains are more ready to learn and more open to figuring out how to successfully approach our challenges. I would suggest talking to her and offering the idea that she can practice finding ways to feel at peace with her body as it is right now. This will really help her move forward.
It would als be really useful to offer her stimulation to her mouth to help wake up those muscles. Maybe she would be open to massage or gentle tapping on her face or light brushing with some soft fabric. This could help to generate more sensation in her mouth. You can also read The Fabric of Autism by Judith Bluestone, as it gives some great exercises to help with facial sensitivity from the HANDLE program that she developed.
Finally, read the other posts in this forum on language - we have given some suggestions on how to develop language that could really help you too.
First and foremost, It's always about the attitude we hold when we approach a challenge. And second, it's about being willing to persistently find creative solutions.
Please let us know what you try and how it goes - we'd love to give you more guidance.
Son-Rise Program Teacher
The Autism Treatment Center of America