Alabama mother Briana Blankenship had had a wonderful pregnancy not long after getting married to Jason Blankenship in 2010. After her daughter Taylor Briley Blankenship was born in June 2012, the first stages of progress came quickly: She was “happy, chunky, and loving,” and at 10 months, she was also walking.
The first sign that Taylor had any issues developmentally was at the age of 15 months, when they were visiting relatives, and a family member commented on Taylor’s constantly spinning in circles, saying that it wasn’t “normal.” Briana was offended at the thought that something might be “wrong” with her baby.
But by age 2, though, Taylor still hadn’t developed her speech, and both parents became concerned. Taylor was enrolled in daycare, put into speech therapy, and had had her hearing checked, but well into her third year, they came to the grievous conclusion that Taylor had autism.
Not all hope was lost, though. They put her in pre-school and discovered that Taylor had a knack for letters and numbers. She also leaned to use an iPad communication device called LAMP. Just before she started kindergarten, Taylor was enrolled into gymnastics to help her develop body awareness, and she “loved it”—she also stopped “tip toe walking.”
Then, it happened. Around the time when Taylor was finishing kindergarten, she and her mother were stopping in at a fast food restaurant, when they were late for gymnastics, and, in the middle of the drive thru, Taylor started giggling in the back seat. Then Briana heard her say it, “Mama.” She immediately whipped around and said, “Did you just say mama?” Then her daughter said it again.
Grabbing her phone, Briana caught the emotional moment on camera:
I am ugly crying in the McDonald's parking lot and the employees probably think I'm crazy. In the drive thru I suddenly heard Taylor say MAMA. For those of you that don't know. Taylor is 5 and has nonverbal autism. She has NEVER said a word.EVER. As soon as she said it I grabbed my phone and started 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. #AutismAwareness #BigWin *Edit* I need to add here that I own the rights to this video. To use this video in a commercial player or in broadcasts, please email email@example.com
Posted by Briana Blankenship on Monday, April 30, 2018
Mom and daughter were both ecstatic, and then Briana called her husband to hear it for himself. “It was seriously one of the best moments of our lives,” Briana told Love What Matters.
Both parents had accepted that their daughter would never speak. They had learned to ignore judgmental looks from other parents, and not take anything for granted, celebrating every milestone. Then, during Mother’s Day weekend, Taylor said, “Dada.” Both parents now have hope that their daughter might break through being considered “non-verbal,” which is defined by not being able to speak full sentences and express wants and needs.
Briana shared, “These are our first huge steps toward this goal and I can’t wait for the day when I have to purchase a new seat belt EMT warning cover that no longer has to have to have the phrase ‘non-verbal’ anymore.”