A glance at any baby book shows how much baby’s first word is revered — and hints at it’s unending pleasure for parents. And as a clinical Speech-Language Pathologist for almost four decades, I am endlessly struck by the phenomenon of firsts: words, phrases, and sentences. But it was not until I met my first group of kids with classic autism two decades ago that I became completely enamored with the questions, “How do kids on the autism spectrum (ASD) develop their first words? Can they accomplish this naturally?” The conventional wisdom was that these kids could not develop real language systems at all, and that they needed to be taught survival phrases, and drilled to say them, like so many skills.
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