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    Posted March 31, 2014 by
    Chisholm, Minnesota
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Communicating through autism

    More from nstars8

    Learning to communicate


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     nstars8 used stuffed animals as an early way to act out real-life scenarios for her son, Jacob, who is on the autism spectrum and doesn't speak much. "By trial and error we found that Jacob 'related' with his stuffed animals, and then would do what they did, e.g. wash under their arms in a bath, wash their hair, grab the tooth brush, get ready for bed ... Anything and everything you can think of that involves 'daily life' we used stuffed animals or 'friends', as we like to call them, to do it first."

    Do you have autism or a loved one on the spectrum? How do you communicate? Add your story to this assignment and it could be featured on CNN.
    - dsashin, CNN iReport producer

    My son was diagnosed Non verbal/ ASD/ sensory processing disorder, When he was 4 years old. My son ( Jacob) was just like any other kid growing up, by the age of 18 months he said mom, dad, he even sang the sponge bob song every time it came on. By the age of 2 we noticed he wasn't talking as much, but didn't worry too much. By the age of 3 he had quit talking and just made " grunting" noises at things he wanted or would point. This was when we knew something wasn't right.

    After he was diagnosed, we were completely lost.... We live in a small rural area that I call, " the end of the dirt road" There isn't much for help in this area, and unfortunately We were given the diagnoses, and the left on our own.

    For the longest time, I spent every waking minute reading articles, blogs, studies looking for answers on questions I had no idea about.. One " answer" would lead to a million more questions/ what if's....

    Finally by the age of 5, Jacob started speech therapy, problem is the first therapist told me he was " too old" to learn sign language, so we would try other things. Why I didn't really agree with her, I'm so lost I thought well she's the professional... So we started going 2 days a week for 40 min. I saw no improvement after 3 months, but what I did see was a 5 year old, who had taken her iPad and " Created his sessions" The therapist had a program that had sight words/ pictures of things around the room. So when you touched the picture, the picture spoke. i.e. Ball; I want to play with a ball.

    I knew my son was good on computers, he has been since about the age 2, but as I sat one day speaking with the therapist, she had given Jacob the iPad and I remember thing... ( and saying) You might not want to do that.. Therapist: " It's no big deal" at the end of our 10 min conversation, Jacob had rearranged the icons, added more, deleted some.. It was so funny! I remember the therapist saying " WOW, I didn't expect that" and all I could do was laugh and say " I told you so"

    Well as life does, we became very busy with work, school and when the therapist called and cancelled a few appointments I decided that Jacob wasn't getting a whole lot out of it, so we decided to take a break; and he was suppose to be getting speech therapy in school as well, ( but that's a whole different , story......)

    So my husband and I bought an iPad. I started exploring the different apps, every time Jacob wanted something, ( like food) he would do one of two things.... Either he would point and make a noise, where we in return would say the name of what he wanted ( apple) and TRY to make him say it before giving it too him, or Jacob would just get the item himself...

    Unfortunately, as Jacob got older he wanted more things, and we as parents didn't always know what it was that he wanted... Insert MELTDOWNS..... Most of Jacob's meltdowns happened because he couldn't explain to us what he wanted/ needed, and we just couldn't figure it out at times. i.e. We would be in Wal-Mart ( every thing would be fine) and we would walk past a display of cheap $5.00 stuffed animals ( Which later became an obsession) And my son Jacob would just loose it if he didn't get one of these animals. At first I didn't understand, and then as the years went by, I learned a few things ( from Jacob & Blogs) That Jacob has
    " tunnel vision" so when he become fixed on one thing, he WON'T stop until he gets it because he can't, he doesn't understand..

    Once I figured that out, life became a bit easier, I found different apps on the iPad that helped express & explain , what he MIGHT be feeling. I learned to take those cheap stuffed animals that Jacob loves so very much ( we now call them his friends) and I would make the animals talk, expressing what was happening, later I would make the animals read a book on the iPad ( which has produced amazing results)

    Jacob was finally moved to a new school, and the para's & teacher there are strong & love their job, therefore Jacob has felt that and reacted to that.

    Jacob is now 8, and although he may not carry on a conversation with you, he can now express his feelings, ( which is something new & still learning) but Jacob can now tell you what he wants as well. thanks to sight words, iPad apps, Disney movies, stuffed animals, hard work and dedication and most of all LOVE and understanding from his family.

    The best advice I can give to other parents of ASD children who read this is to NEVER and I mean NEVER give up. Try anything and everything, and keep trying! My Jacob is now a " Parrot talker" he has learned to repeat what we ask, and what we answer.. i.e. How was your day? ( Jacob) How was your day? ( me) my day was good.. (Jacob) My day was good (me) well that's awesome! ( Jacob) Awesome!

    Jacob is learning at his own pace, don't get me wrong, there are some days that it's very frustrating, hard & crazy all in one, but when I look back and see the improvements Jacob, and this family has made it honestly is one of my most proudest moments, as a parent.

    Keep trying, never give up and one day you may just hit the nail on the head, and everything will click.... And then you'll look back and think.. uh that wasn't so hard..
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