“Say Just One Word at First”: the Emergence of Reliable Speech in a Student Labeled with Autism

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This article presents a qualitative, interpretivist research study that documents the emergence, in the context of typed expression, of increasingly useful and reliable speech for a young person labeled with autism. The authors construct a descriptive narrative of the process of this young man's emergent speech development and organize the data around four components of this complex, dynamic, and nonlinear process: (a) echolalia or “unreliable” speech, (b) reading out loud, (c) using reliable speech, and (d) integrating speaking and typing. Additionally, the authors identify three categories of supports that this young man and his family experienced and interpreted as being supportive of his emergent speech. These categories include (a) the importance of taking risks, (b) the importance of seeing and hearing words together, and (c) the importance of an inclusive academic education including rich literacy experiences. Throughout, this inductive analysis constructs an understanding of how this young man and his family have experienced and interpreted his emergence as a reliable speaker.



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