Asperger's Syndrome Success Stories Tyler's Magic Word Box
by Gilda Horgan
I think it is so valuable to parents to read about and have access to stories that give them hope. When my son was first diagnosed, all I read were negative stories that left me afraid and concerned.
Little by little, I found stories that gave me hope and I clung to them. When Tyler showed such marked improvement, I wanted to share his story so other parents could have hope, and I wanted to sing the praises of the teachers who had done so much for him.
We are very fortunate and I pray that sharing my story will eventually raise awareness that more public programs like his are necessary.
Tyler entered an integrated program in pre-school due to developmental delays with speech and processing. His father and I often wondered, at that time, if we would ever know his thoughts, his dreams, or the ideas running through his mind that were evident to us, but which he could not express with words.
We saw improvement in Tyler a mere 6 weeks after he started in the program. It's hard to remember now what the milestones were, but I do recall commenting that I couldn't believe how far he had come in just 6 weeks.
Most notable was his improved ability to focus for longer periods in groups, and to interact with his classmates in a more "typical" way. He was growing, the teachers worked very hard to help him improve, and we were noticing.
The most memorable event occurred a few weeks into kindergarten.
Prior to this time, Tyler had a fairly extensive vocabulary, but often struggled to find the right word, or combination of words, to express a thought.
Most importantly, Tyler's responses were limited to repeating the last word of the question put to him. If I asked him what he had for lunch, he would reply, "lunch." If I asked him if he wanted juice or milk, he would reply "milk." Similarly, if I asked him if he wanted milk or juice, he would reply "juice," reiterating the last word of the sentence spoken.
I had stopped asking him about his day at school, or what he had for lunch, since his inability to reply was so heartbreaking, and I could see how desperately he wanted to tell me, but couldn't.
Tyler rarely ever made sentences with more than 2-3 words, saying things like, "I me up," instead of "pick me
up" at the age of four.
Then, one day he came home from kindergarten with a bird feeder he had made.
As we hung it on the tree, he proudly announced, "I made it at the art table." I burst into tears, and called everybody I knew to tell them what he had said.
From that point, a whole new world opened up for Tyler, and for the first time, we were able to get to know him.
The integrated setting was able to provide one-on-one opportunities for Tyler with speech and occupational therapy. Having "typical" students in class has helped Tyler aspire for improved performance and behaviors, as well as allowed him to make friends and feel accepted.
The teaching team was able to adapt to Tyler's special needs by offering visual learning tools, and providing solutions to help him develop better concentration in a group environment.
But, as I mentioned, most notably, the class has helped him overcome his considerable communication issues.
I was so inspired by Tyler's progress that I wrote, and illustrated, a children's book called, "Tyler's Magic Word Box," in which Tyler can't find his words until his mother gives him a magic word box from his teacher.
After working hard to open the well-sealed box, Tyler finds his words. The box signifies the teachers and specialists who have "unlocked" Tyler's words for him.
My hope is to publish the book and use it as a tool to raise additional funds for the Massachusetts school system's special education programs.
Every day that Tyler tells me about computer lab, music class, or an in-school event, I am reminded that not so long ago there was a boy who played alone, in a wordless world, who wanted so much to tell me what he had for lunch.
I hope to use the book to raise money for autism education. Here's a link to the book for all to see it and read it. Any feedback posted on my blog will be helpful when approaching editors and agents! Thanks everyone and I hope there are many others out there who have encouraging stories to share about their kid's success.Tyler's Magic Word Box
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