Posted in Speech and Occupational Therapy

Blog #38~ Speak Easy

Blog #38~ Speak Easy

Speak easy……If only Nick could….. But having Down syndrome and autism has led him down a different path.

Last week I participated in the parent interview for his speech evaluation.  One form used in the evaluation was called “Expression of Intentions and Emotions.” 


Communication isn’t just about using words.  As you can see on the chart there are many ways of making needs known.  Not all are positive; in fact Nick uses many of the negative presymbolic means (tantrum, aggression, and self-injury) to get his point across when he is frustrated or angry.  When Nick is pissed off he will grab his cheek and pinch it really hard several times over.  This is a warning sign of escalation and possible meltdown that has to be redirected quickly.  My go to for a redirection is doing something to distract him or embarking some humor (banging my elbow and saying ouch) always makes him laugh. As I have mentioned in past blogs, every behavior even the negative ones are communicating something.

In the same vein he can show love without uttering one word.  He will come up randomly while I am working a give me a sweet peck on the cheek.  I love his kisses, so sweet.

So back to the chart above and a few more examples of communication.  When Nick request food or objects he will use “eye gaze.”  I can hold up a box of Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls and Oatmeal Creme Pies.  All you have to do is watch where his eyes will follow to know which one he will choose.

I’ll take one of each….hee hee….. 🙂

little debbie cakes

He will also use “pointing.”  Nick and his speech therapist Brian’s hands made the wall in the lobby at Suburban Pediatric Therapies………

photo (116)

 He also demonstrates by  “pushing away” along with “signing” the word no.  In addition, he incorporates his picture icons to make requests.  During the evaluation it is clear that his strengths lie in his good eye contact, receptive language (listening and understanding what is being communicated), usage of icons (which in a way has become his voice) and his ability to seek attention.  He does this both appropriately (by helping out around the house and taking great pride)/ and inappropriately, (fake sneezing, burping, farting, dropping and dumping, etc….) If you want to get a real taste of this see Blog #3~Getting Your Goat located in the April archives and Blog#10~Nano Second found in the June archives for more about his shenanigans. 🙂

Silly fun fake sneezing with Aunt Laura…..Aaaa-choo, that’s funny stuff!

photo (115)

The weakness for him lies in “joint attention.”  He can’t verbally comment on an object.  I can prompt him by asking him if he likes let’s say the movie “The Nutty Professor.” He can respond with a smile and a thumbs up. Actually that is what he is watching this morning.  He was laughing earlier at the dinner table scene (where Eddie Murphy plays almost every character in the family.)

Nutty Professor family

Of course there is some farting involved which always cracks Nick up.  I think he gets that from my Dad 🙂  I get a kick out of Nick, what makes him tick along with what makes him laugh.  He does have many words he uses and says pitch perfect.  However, he is unable to string together more than two or three words at a time.  If I ask him if he “needs to go potty”, he might respond with, “No need, potty.” Most likely he is following my verbal model on this. *Speak easy, no but language can be unspoken too.

not speaking quote

So we will formulate new goals to work on for speech therapy after the evaluation is completed. We will continue to help him communicate his needs, wants, frustration and disappointment. And so I leave this piece by quoting the Nutty Professor Klump, “You got to keep on pushing, pushing!”  That’s what is in my noggin this week. 🙂


*Speak easy: According to, A speakeasy was an establishment that was used for selling and drinking alcoholic beverages during the period of United States history known as Prohibition (1920-1933, longer in some states), when the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol was illegal. The term comes from a patron’s manner of ordering alcohol without raising suspicion – a bartender would tell a patron to be quiet and “speak easy”.


Teresa is the Author of "A New Course: A Mother's Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism" and the mother of two boys. Her youngest son, Nick is 29 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). Teresa's passion is helping others understand and navigate co-occurring Down syndrome and autism. She is a DS-ASD consultant, advocate, speaker, and author. Follow Nick's world on Facebook, Instagram & Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice of Autism and on Twitter @tjunnerstall. For more information and media links, visit

2 thoughts on “Blog #38~ Speak Easy

  1. So interesting. Although Max is not quite even 4 yrs old, the only word he says is dada. He used to say daddy, but doesn’t even do that anymore. He mostly says guh , be, and da. He doesn’t point, or sign much, but he definitely gets his point across, especially when he doesn’t want something 😉 Although throwing your milk across the room isn’t quite the communication we’re looking for – ha! Did Nick say more words ever and then regress? Just curious. Max will imitate your mouth shape, like saying ‘o’, but no sound comes out. It’s quite fascinating to watch him with his speech therapist. Who knows if he’ll ever really talk much, but hopefully his signing will improve!

    P.S. I would LOVE a post on when and how Nick potty trained!!

    1. Kristin, I never saw any regression from speech that was significant as it seems like his verbal speech was always limited. I did notice increase in stimming and no increase in speech which were two red flags that we were dealing with more than just Down syndrome. Yes, they do get their point across even if it is not to our liking don’t they. I will work on a potty training post (whew, one word daunting but it can be done.) Thanks for reading and your suggestions for future blogs. Keep on pushing, pushing! 🙂

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