“Stef was diagnosed with severe autism with Global development delay on the 6th June 2000. She did early intervention as per the practice of the time in Australia for 8 hours a week. She shared this early intervention with 9 other children and 6 out of the 10 remained non-verbal to this day.
“Stef was enrolled at mainstream school in 2003. She was still not talking but she was listening and would follow simple directions. She had an aide at school 1:1 and they worked brilliantly together and her tolerance for crowds, new experiences and her interest in what other children were doing grew. She was learning her letters and her numbers and had about 15 words. Every now and again she would surprise us with a whole sentence. She then started duel placement at special school so that she could have the extra therapies. At mainstream school she was learning to add and subtract, but at special school they didn’t even make her write her name on the top of her page.
“At age 12, she was forced to go to special school full time and regressed to the point of no longer being able to write, do any simple math or speak. There was a huge shortage of speech therapists both at the school and privately due to funding changes which meant under 6s had large amounts of funding and anyone over 6 got no help. We couldn’t even buy a speech therapist, they simply were not available. The school relied on PECS and Proloquo2go as their only way of her communicating.
“At age 19, she was turned down by over 30 different speech therapists as they didn’t feel that it was worth their time to try to help an older non-verbal person.
“In May 2017 we started using Gemiini.... Stef had about 4 words she used regularly... Not clear but we knew what they meant. Within a week of starting Gemiini, she had picked up 3 new words and said them clearly, after another week, 2 more. So now, 6 months later, she has about 40 words she can say...She has gained more eye contact, tries harder to participate in activities and with prompting is trying to say new words all the time. She is watching our mouths when we speak. We recently changed videos to words that are more ones which she can use in everyday life. Foods, body parts etc. She is still shy about speaking… And rarely speaks to anyone unless she is particularly motivated (usually by food) but every word is an absolute gift and one step closer to being able to communicate her needs and wants to us all.”