In May 2018, Briana Blankenship was in the drive-thru of her local McDonald’s with her 5-year-old daughter, Taylor, in the backseat. Taylor has nonverbal autism, and her mother said that she never spoke a word before — until this moment.
“Mama,” Taylor said.
“I heard her say it, and I whipped around, and I’m just like, ‘Did you just say Mama?’ And she said it again,” Blankenship said. “And I was like, ‘Oh my God!'”
Blankenship took out her phone and started to record her daughter’s voice.
“Want to do it one more time?” she asks Taylor in the video. Taylor responded by saying “mama” again and again.
“I am ugly crying in the McDonald’s parking lot and the employees probably think I’m crazy,” Blankenship wrote in a Facebook post of the video recording. “I’m pretty sure I held up the drive-thru line but there was no way I wasn’t getting proof of this. I can’t explain how unbelievably grateful and ecstatic I am right now.”
Autism spectrum can cause numerous communication challenges in children. It is estimated that 25 percent of people living with autism spectrum disorders are nonverbal, meaning that they lack the ability to speak.
Speech problems with autism are often treated with a speech-language pathologist or a speech therapist. Blankenship said that her daughter’s brain processes information differently, and that she has been in speech therapy since she was 3.
“So many people take for granted that their kids talk to them, or they talk them to death,” said Blankenship. “They don’t realize that there are parents like us that literally dream that their kids are going to do that.“
Blankenship first learned that her daughter might have autism when she was just 15 months old. After three months of evaluations, Taylor was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
Now that Taylor is starting to speak, Blankenship hopes that her story inspires other families with nonverbal children.
“I have received an outpouring of support from thousands of people across the world and gotten hundreds of friend requests from people wanting to follow our story,” Blankenship told Love What Matters.
What’s the next word that Taylor is going to try to learn? Dada.