As a graduate student, I was taught that the classic autistic child was a “shell” of a person who desired no contact with others, not even their families. For years I used traditional speech and language therapy techniques to coax speech and shape behaviors. Over time, I discovered why so few of my efforts were rewarded: the autistic person who cannot speak, or whose speech is marked by repetition, echolalia or otherwise nonsensical jargon, has little control over his/her movements. The brain thinks one way, the body acts in opposition. This is called “apraxia.” And as if this wasn’t enough of a burden, most autistics—classic or not—have sensory differences. They see, hear, smell or feel things much differently than people with neurotypical brains. As one autistic puts it, “autism is a sensory upheaval of the brain.” When children have deficits in body awareness, muscle tone, and coordination, motor planning is generally impaired. This in turn impacts the coordination of speech and all other forms of purposeful movement. The autistic person, far from being a "shell," is a wonderfully complex individual whose neurological wiring makes him or her truly unique.
I offer MNRI (Masgutova Neuromotor Reflex Integration) to all my clients, as I find that this helps them calm their bodies and readies them for therapy. (There are many other techniques for improving sensory processing, but I have found this one very efficacious.) The client then shows me how he or she uses the eyes, points, makes choices, etc. and we journey from there. I am committed to helping the person find their voice through AAC.