Tennessee boy with Autism communicates with yard sale play mat - FOX 35 News Orlando

Tennessee boy with Autism communicates with yard sale play mat

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Imagine a boy, not yet three years old, who is able to speak and do math, but he’s never said a word.

This is the case of Rylan Kirksey, a Tennessee boy diagnosed with severe low-functioning Autism.

But he’s found way to communicate that has surprised everyone.

It’s a simple play mat, picked up at a yard sale. Knowing Rylan loves numbers and letters, his grandmother bought it for him.

Rylan’s mother Tasha Kirksey started saying letters aloud when Rylan would point to them. And, pretty soon, she says, she realized the two year old was spelling out words.

On camera, he spells out “balloon” letter by letter. Tasha says he’s spelled other words: elephant, zebra, his own name, his sister Haeleigh’s name. His PawPaw’s name.

Tasha says she’s never even worked with him on spelling. She says, I had no idea he could really spell until he started. And every day, there were four new words a day!”

It’s not just words, but addition. Rylan pats his mat to show the “plus” sign. Tasha says he’s started doing subtraction. Rylan, who has never uttered a single word, seems to have found a way to communicate with his family.

Tasha says, “That’s what every parent thinks of when they’re pregnant: what’s their first word going to be? They think about all these things. When it doesn’t happen, it’s devastating. To know that I’m finally going to be able to communicate with him? It’s awesome! I can’t wait!”

The play mat has unlocked a little of what’s going on in Rylan’s mind. Tasha says, “Just one minute is all I want inside that head. Just one minute, to see the world through his eyes.”

Tasha says she will continue to work with Rylan and the mat, hoping he can use it to communicate his needs and wants. She says it’s brought them closer than ever. Watching him play on the mat, she says, “He’s taught me more than I could ever teach him. Patience, understanding. Just love. He’s amazing to me. I can’t wait to see what the future holds next. What he does next!”

For now, the play mat is all the Kirkseys have. Rylan is not getting treatment for his Autism because it’s not covered by the family’s health insurance plan. Kirksey says they cannot afford the $500-$800 they would have to pay out-of-pocket every month for treatment. So, for now, they will keep working with him – until they can find a way to cover his care.

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