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  • Jessica Elsing

Presume Competence

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

Hello everyone. My name is Jessica and my daughter, Marissa, is nine years old and has nonspeaking autism. I'm here to share a little of our journey with you, and maybe provide some encouragement to NEVER give up on your nonspeaking loved one!


Our beginnings are probably similar. We received the official diagnosis at 2 years old and immediately we were referred to speech, occupational therapy, and ABA. Like any good parents we followed the directions of the professionals, and we started therapy. At age 3 we started preschool, and we were thrown into the world of ETR's, IEP's, inclusion classrooms and resource rooms. Never once did anyone talk to us about a brain-body disconnection, motor coaching, exercise, the fact that speech and language are two separate parts of the brain, or apraxia. I distinctly remember asking one of the many speech therapists if Marissa could possibly have apraxia and she told me Marissa does not have enough words to make that determination. So, we continued on, fighting for the best schools, the best therapies, whatever to try to help our daughter. We knew she was in there and we knew she was smart we just didn't know how to tap in.


EVERYTHING changed for us December 20, 2021. Our very first spelling session was life changing. Marissa was being talked to like any other kid her age, and she was being presented age-appropriate material. And she was doing it!! She was able to answer a series of questions about the lesson, not just with her practitioner, but also with me. It was a surreal experience. We believed she could spell, but we were amazed by what we were seeing.


Driving to Marissa's First S2C Session

From that point forward, we have put a heavy focus on coaching the motor, making time to spell daily, and implementing daily workouts. We are fortunate that the spelling community is growing in our area, and we now have local practitioners. This is the first thing we've ever done that is a parent-driven program. I have been spelling with my daughter since that very first day, I work alongside her practitioners to make sure she is reaching her full potential. We are truly a team.


I hope that I have given you some encouragement and I hope that you will always presume competence in your nonspeaking loved one. Remember nonspeaking does not equal nonthinking!

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