Jamie started his language adventure and journey what seems an eternity ago back in June ’12. At the time he was completely non-verbal and depended on sign language to communicate with those around him. As Jamie was only three and a half years old (DOB: 02/12/08) I was aware that it may take longer for him to engage with the ALL program but was keen to use a focus he was interested in such as Toy Story to help him develop and process the world around him.
In the beginning Jamie showed very little interest in the program but as time progressed he started to enjoy our evening routine in the playroom where it was just Dad and himself for 20 mins to half hour. It then progressed to messing on the keyboard during the cartoon sequences, then to recognising some of the letters, then to recognising words, moods and telling me what each character was doing. He initially used sign to make his point at specific stages but that did develop into verbal expressions over the 16 months that Jamie used the program.
When Jamie started Enda was fantastic at explaining the concepts and key learning points behind the program. I, as a parent just wanted our little man speaking as soon as possible. This program showed me however how many more stages there are in our brain before we can even consider speech. Whilst the ALL program has definitely helped him in that regard the benefits he has gained from the program will have much more significant implications in the future, I hope, than just developing his speech. This program focuses on more foundational pillars of communication than just verbal expression. Jamie has had to learn how to sequence his thoughts before even beginning to develop an action, he’s learned how to read mood and generalise that mood. He’s also learned how to use a structured format to communicate his thoughts and this is to name but a few areas that have been worked on.
At the start I was very keen to aggressively devote time to this program with Jamie but Enda explained that the most important aspect of the program was to go at the child’s pace and let them determine how much time should be spent on ALL. With this in mind there were weeks where ALL wasn’t opened and conversely times where we sat down every night to play on the program.
At every stage Enda and his team have been open to feedback no matter how small to any area that may make the program more beneficial to us. They have developed the program in areas that Jamie progressed and adjusted other areas in sections he found difficult. It was because of this empathy and willingness to support Jamie that I feel he benefited as much as he could at that time.
In October last year we took a break from ALL to use the time to work on another areas with Jamie and have just come back to it a month ago to progress him on further. He has just started in a mainstream Junior Infants class and is getting on very well with his other classmates. His structured learning such as writing and maths are ahead of his peers and whilst his expressive language is still a work in progress he can talk to friends, the teacher, his SNA and give plenty of cheek to his folks at home!
We have found that the ALL program is not the silver bullet of autism but it is a very helpful and beneficial tool to develop a child’s awareness, concentration, communication and engagement with those around them. I hope this helps any other parent looking to try and do something to help their child work out how to get over their hurdle that is autism. Regards, Mark 😉