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I am still very much in the middle of this journey. I have four young children, and both my boys are late talkers. My oldest son, Brennan, is now 6-1/2.

We didn’t think he was that different from other boys until he was almost 3. The leader of our church congregation pulled us into his office and gently informed us that other parents were concerned for the safety of their children in nursery class with Brennan. We were devastated. I knew the reason Brennan acted out aggressively with his peers (pushing, hitting, scratching, biting) was because he could not verbally communicate with them. I figured it would come in time But we did not how to help him NOW. We were later told some people believed he was autistic.

 We were referred to the ChildFind area of our local school district, and they determined Brennan was “developmentally delayed” in speech and comprehension. We received a similar diagnosis from a private speech therapist. He was placed in a normal preschool with speech supports and had an amazing teacher. Under her care, he blossomed. Still, it took time.

A lot of his early speech was in the form of echolalia.  Someone would greet him with “Hi, Brennan!” and he would respond, “Hi Brennan!” He would quote extensively from his favorite movies. Back-and-forth conversation didn’t come into play until he was 5.

For years his IEP listed goals like “Speak in 4-6 word sentences” and “Understand and complete two-step directions.” But his intellect was never questioned.  And he always loved building and creating with whatever he could find—that was his outlet in those early, difficult days. In retrospect, he just needed the time to develop at his own pace.

Fast forward to present day: we have chosen to homeschool Brennan. He just finished kindergarten. He has really enjoyed learning to read—his prized possession is the light that attaches to his bunk bed—and I sometimes hear him sounding out words well past bedtime. He has taken well to math, and will recite math facts (simple addition or counting to 100) to himself just whenever.  He loves to draw and create anything he can think of with paper, masking tape, and scissors. Recently, he has decided to learn the names of all the planets in the solar system and he would love to build a rocket. The sky is literally the limit for this kid!

My other son, Sander, will be 3 in September. He is also a late talker—but nothing like Brennan. Sander has no receptive problems, as he easily understands and completes multi-step directions (when he wants to). He just doesn’t talk—at all. He makes all sorts of sounds, and has taken well to some simple sign language.

I’m back in this all-too-familiar place of wondering what exactly is going on in his head. But we already see the makings of an incredible sense of humor within this very independent and driven little boy! We have chosen to let him develop at his own pace, and to hold off on formal evaluation and therapy at this point. He will speak when he is ready. Wish us luck on the journey! We sure are excited to see how it goes.

by Anna Dinsmoor, Colorado Springs, Colorado

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My son, now 14, argues with me and points out my mistakes.  Twelve years ago, I never knew if that would happen.  The only word he said at age two was “no.” He understood everything and grunted.  I thought he was bright and ignored those who thought he was delayed.

He was sensitive to sound, loved to watch things spin, could escape from any carseat, loved Thomas the Train, and lined up toys.  However, he related to all of us well, and I knew he was not autistic.

Some “friends” and family told me I was in denial.  I was told I was ignoring his delays and refusing to believe he was autistic.

When he was 2, I met parents of similar children on an email list, and we started a list for our late talkers. When he was 3, I took him to see Dr. Stephen and Mary Camerata at Vanderbilt. 

We learned that besides late talking, he had limited vowel space, phonological delays, and his articulation was less than .5% for his age.  However, his score on the CARS autism test was off the chart that he was most definitely NOT autistic.

We were told he might need 4-6 years of speech therapy.  He needed a language preschool, which our area lacked, or else therapy 5x/week.

Because of other speech issues in my family tree, I became his bulldog, fighting for therapy.  Our school system gave him therapy 2x/week, and our insurance approved therapy 2x/week.  We enrolled him in Kindermusik with a music therapist 1x/week. 

For the next 2 years, our lives revolved around his therapy and using our home environment to help him learn to articulate and speak English.  My son worked hard, every day of those 2 years.  His therapy sessions gradually decreased and were completed 2 years after his original diagnosis.

My son is about to begin high school.  We originally opted to homeschool so we could tailor his education to his style and interests. 

  • He competes in demonstration contests
  • In speech contests, he has a Steven Wright style delivery that makes audiences laugh.
  • He will begin his 4th year of studying Spanish as a second language.
  • A talented musician, he has played violin and piano but now prefers electric guitar.
  • He has spent the last 4 years competing in robotics contests.

The stories of the children in this late talking subgroup are all different.  This is my son’s.

by Mary Biever, Evansville, Indiana

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