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There are 28 comments on Unlocking Emily’s World

  1. Great article. I have mental illness myself, although not as severe. I am a COM grad from 1994 and your staffer, Amy Laskowski, laid the possible groundwork for a story on me. I am an author and a photographer with the hopes of helping mentally ill people, understand the world at the level they can and to get the most out of life.

  2. God bless the workers who are coming with new ways of helping the Autistic to be verbal. I am a father of 4 year old high function Autistic. Has delayed speech and picking up. But many time I feel frustrated. Hope medical science will come up with a cure that will make special kinds Independent.

  3. Amazing article. Thank you so much for sharing. My son is 8 told, minimally verbal & his speech therapist forwarded me your link I’m glad she did.
    Truly inspiring Work, I hope we will see the fruits of it soon & give our children a voice.
    Best of luck my dear Emily.
    Asmaa mom to Bader ❤️

  4. my granddaughter is 5 +.she can hardly say few words.very much like Emily. i wish to know each and every progress medical science is making in delayed speech autism .good luck.

  5. Thank you! So many of us are desperate for answers. Our children are frustrated with not being able to communicate their wants, dislikes, illness, and thoughts. Wishing you much success in this research!

  6. This is a great article. My 4 year old son is newly diagnosed on the spectrum but we knew for a while prior to the official diagnosis. He was verbal up until 2 years old but started regressing and now will only say a word every once in a while. This article gives me hope in the advances in treatment and options for the future. Thank you!

  7. Thank you so much for this important research. My son has DS & at 3yo started saying words & signing a lot. By the end of the year it was all gone & he was dx. W/ASD. No talking or signing. He’s 7 & has three words & a few signs now but I dream of the day he’ll talk again. Good luck in your research.

  8. Our daughter is an 8 year-old autistic child with minimal speech as well. Emily reminds me so much of her! Thank you for this article, and thank you to the parents and children who volunteered to participate in this study. Knowing that research is being conducted on understanding the process of the brain and how it relates to their speech gives me hope! In my heart I truly believe that someday, our children WILL get an opportunity to speak again! Thank you so much.

  9. I have Asperger’s Syndrome which is now autistic spectrum disorder. I disagree with this move in the DSM 5 because I believe it works to further marginalize those with non-verbal or minimally verbal autism. Since language acquisition and use has such a well understood neurological foundation, it seems like it should be a no brainer to me to study non-verbal or minimally verbal individuals in depth. I believe the mental health and neuropsychiatric fields have shyed away from doing so because there is no money in it and they can’t feign improvements in behavior or functioning as a result of their therapies in people with profound autism like they can with those on the higher end of the spectrum who’s improvements are often the result of their own spontaneous neurological development. It’s no secret that so many people study psychology because it’s one of the easiest fields to major in and most medical students who go in to psychiatry do so because it’s the least medically oriented of the medical fields that still allows them to call themselves medical doctors. Ask yourself why are there both psychiatrists and neurologists? Why is the brain the only organ that is divided between specialties where some of it’s disorders are treated as tangible and some intangible? Why are other organs not treated in the same manner? The answer is simple . Because one cannot get away with such bullsh!tery with other organs because people would die.

  10. I love this article. Great info and it really gives hope to parents such as myself, having a child who is autistic and non verbal. My question is, are they or will they conduct studies with younger children?

  11. Great article. My son is 6 yrs old. He is also diagnosed as autistic. He only knows some words. Never called me daddy or mommy to his mom but I noticed that he would say daddy or mommy himself. Most of the time he makes noises and laughing himself move his hand on the air. As a parent we really get frustrated. Now a days he pushes his 2yrs sister and throwing stuff towards her. If I raise my voice he would come to me and atack me. We really worry about my son. And at the same time we hope he will talk one day.

  12. My grandson is 2 and has symptoms of autistism. He tries to talk and having trouble with his speech. He was fine when he was a baby and when he was 1, everything just changed after he turned 2. He communicates well it’s just him talking. I hope and pray that we all find answers so all our kids can verbally talk and communicate well.

  13. Im a provider To an autistic 13year old her name is Emily and Im always talking to her and shes picking up a few words. The other day I told her to say her sisters name and she did the feeling is so unexplainable I get all excited and hug her Shes a non verbal autistic but I know its not impossible

    1. Many parents are scared of the thought that something might be “wrong” with their child. Often that results in denial too see or accept any symptoms. So a careful approach is needed, just suggesting that she might consider the possibility.

      The important thing for her to realize is that its not harmful or dangerous to consider the possibility that her child has autism.
      What is harmful is to ignore the possibility.
      If her child do not have autism there has been no harm in checking it, only a consideration less to think about.
      If her child has autism its crucial to find out as early as possible.

      I am a father of a boy with infantile autism. I am forever grateful to the person in kinder garden that suspected it and talked with me about it.
      She asked if I wanted an observation of him, then a specialist team to evaluate him. Because of that person my son got an early diagnose at the age of 2, giving the opportunity for an early start of a training program. Now a year and a half later he has improved significantly on many things he struggled with before. If we hadn’t been aware of his condition, his outcome would have been far worse.
      There is no cure for autism but it is possible to enhance the prospects and development. The earlier you start the better the chances are for improvement.
      It is hard to get a diagnose for your child. Your world turns upside down.
      But when you have a child with autism, that awareness and diagnose also change your world to the better.
      It can be difficult to approach the subject but it is important that you do.
      Wish you, your daughter and your grandchild the best.

  14. A great article in understanding minimally verbs kids. My son is 5 and is minimally verbal. If only I could understand what he wants.. I would give the world to him.
    We are with you Emily !!

  15. I would just like to offer words of encouragement to you all. Your little angel appreciates all that you do. Just by being kind and patient with them makes them feel loved and understood.

    However, I would also urge those of you with children fast approaching age 8, get as much help for your child NOW. The inability to communicate with the world is heartbreaking for them and research suggests that if they are not communicating (not saying o e or two words), by age 8, the likelihood that they will ever engage in reciprocal communication diminishes significantly every year past age 8.

    Believe in your heart that autism is a blessing. They make us better as human beings. I believe God gave us these angels so that we know perfect love.

    If you are interested in reading the first two position papers written on autism from 1926, please visit

    My daughter has autism. She was non verbal. Today she can talk (reciprocal conveesations), read, and write. When she was diagnosed we were told she should be in a center.

    I never stopped believing in her.

  16. My son is 18. He is a non-verbal. I must say, I still have hope I’ll hear him call me mom one day. He completed his formal schooling and I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for him. I worry. Is there a break-through in the experiment?

    1. Thanks for your question, Rachel. Here is a response from Helen Tager-Flusberg:

      We have made progress in understanding some of the reasons individuals with ASD don’t acquire spoken language. These include: problems with imitation, problems in processing sounds, especially when there is more than one set of sounds in the environment, and profound speech-motor impairments. For each person the reasons might be different. Promising interventions in younger children are those that target these problems. But we still have a great deal to learn as work on this important topic has only just begun.

    2. Rachel,

      Your son can remain in high school until age 22! Check with your local school district. If you don’t feel he is ready to be out in the world and still needs structure (which would also help you emotionally because he will be at school for 6 hours each day), re-enroll him in school.

      Per federal law, he has a right to be in school until age 22.

  17. Hello everyone,

    I would like to send words of encouragement to you regarding your non verbal/minimal verbal child and share my daughter’s story.

    My daughter was non-verbal as a child. She said only a handful or words and would babble, have giggle fits, wiggle, tremble, have violent outbursts, fight, kick, punch, elope, run towards sunlight, collect, and the list goes on and on.

    Today, my daughter can read 100wpm, think critically, engage in sustained reciprocal conversations, solve grade level math problems, ect…

    When she was diagnosed I was told to put her in a center and that her autism was so severe it was coupled with mental retardation (a term we no longer use but at that time that was the language).

    At that time I knew that if we didn’t make significant gains by age 8, she might be lost forever. The only way your child will make gains is through the collaborative IEP process and pairing your child with an expert teacher whose sole focus is autism.

    Intensive intervention and an autism focused pedagogical approach is the only way. I know because I went back to school to become an expert in the field of special education and autism so that I could teach my child the things I was told she would never learn due to her severe diagnosis.

    I wish you hope and love on this journey. Impossible is nothing.

    1. Kudos to both you and your daughter!

      I taught my daughter as well. It definitely takes a trained and dedicated and spectrum focused teacher.
      My daughter had been going through the Russian roulette of lottery pool teachers in our public schools who had no training.

      Congratulations to you both from someone who knows what that takes.

  18. knowing Emily and her family since childhood and having spent time with them the last 2 Summers, though minimal time. Emily is a sweet child with personality but is different than most of us. She seems to understand more than she is able to communicate back but seems to be a happy young lady. But time is running out at 22 years old and that’s a big issue for all involved.
    All the best.

  19. Firstly, fantastic article. The only thing I’m sad for is that I’m only just now stumbling across it.

    My daughter is 21 with ASD. She suffers from, OCD, Tourette’s, and is mildly verbal. She can speak and repeat words but she can’t remember the order of phrases unless very rehearsed and it’s easier to put 3 words together.

    She was speaking normally up until 2 and right after her vaccine we watched her regress. She began to slur her words, she would look at us confused like that’s not what I was trying to say and would try to say it again until she would either go quiet or cry in frustration because we didn’t understand. She had been putting 3 words together up until that point.

    After she refused to talk at all and I had to coax her into talking in trade for her milk or a toy.

    Eventually, I used a swing to teach her the alphabet. I wouldn’t release the swing until she copied the letter I said and then it was wheeee all kinds of fun and laughing but I noticed vowels and sounds as she got older that she wasn’t hearing correctly.

    It was very interesting fir me to read about the study with music, drums and motor movement because that’s exactly what I used to teach my daughter how to hear and remember the difference in the sound so her brain and what she would say would connect.

    We would use clapping of our hands to unravel words, especially with syllables.

    When she was reversing letters or mixing them all up we would tap different areas of her body or face that would represent the sound the letter made where she was getting stuck and stress that letter or clap our hands on that letter or 2 or 3. After a few times with the percussive movements or with stressing the sound or touching the body part she had worked out the movement in her head which helped her give order to the sounds that belonged to those movements in her head and in what order. It unflips the flop per say.

    She has made it well known to me that she really wants to talk again. It gives me hope for her when I read these articles. I wish Emily and this research all the success it deserves.

    1. I’m very interested to hear about this clever method you have used to unlock speech in your child. I don’t fully understand your method but it sounds like you are using touch and a type of neuromovement to stimulate pathways and connections in the brain. I am researching ways to do this with my non verbal child. I am not surprised one of the reasons of lack of speech is sound processing problems. Dr Alfred Tomatis did some pioneering discoveries when he was treating opera singers with voice problems and he discovered it wasn’t a physical vocal cord problem but a listening problem. His Tomatis Method involves listening to Mozart. Autistic children have problems also with differentiation of sounds as their brains are too noisy. I wish there could be more research and studies on these things to help more children and adults who don’t have a voice as traditional speech therapy is not successful for everyone.

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