After years with no way to communicate, Newburgh teen finds her voice

NEWBURGH, Ind. (WEHT)– A Newburgh mother wants to bring attention to a new form of communication. Her 17-year-old daughter is autistic and doesn’t speak. But they learned there was a way for them to communicate. We met Peyton Sparks Tuesday afternoon and learned about her unique way of having a conversation. She used a letter board and although it may be different, she wanted to show, she can still hold a conversation like anyone else.

At a time when most kids are putting together short sentences. Peyton Sparks was losing her speech.

“15 months old she started losing words that she had. She had 12 words on her first birthday and it started regressing,” Carole Sparks says.

And not long after her next birthday, they got more news.

“Got her official diagnosis of severe autism when she was two, 2 1/2 because the waiting list were so long to get it took us a while,” Sparks explains.

Peyton’s mom Carole says from there it was an uphill battle.

“She struggled a lot and now I recognize it, and now she tells me that it’s because of the lack of communication. She never really had a good way to communicate. We tried several different things like I said we were doing speech therapy since she was 20 months.”

But around her teenage years that all changed. She started a new therapy that led her own form of communicating.

“With a motor communication, or the training process that we use, we’re helping someone to have purposeful movement to a letter board. So instead of having to speak, complex speech, phrases or hold a pencil and write which is very difficult for people with apraxia it’s one finger pointing to a letter board,” Casey DePriest says.

People with conditions like Peyton’s have seen great results with the technique. After a summer at camp, Carole says she had a whole new child.

“The child that I thought I was going to try and teach to read that somewhere use words like prolific and nonetheless and platitude and that’s just within her first couple sentences,” Sparks explains. “She’s a brilliant child she’s just stuck in this body that won’t work for her.”

The therapist and Peyton’s mom say to someone who wasn’t familiar with this technique, Peyton might seem unintelligent. But when we spoke with her we asked what her favorite book was and she said she didn’t have one because she is interested in so many different things.

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(This story was originally published on December 31, 2019)

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