Following Three-Step Commands – Pfft, No Way

My daughter has made tremendous growth since she was diagnosed the day before her third birthday.  In the past 18 months or so, she has gone from one word echolalia to 4-5 word spontaneous sentences.  She’s gone from no clue about when bodily functions occur to potty-trained during the day with only a few accidents a week.  She can drink from an open cup now and she can even write her first name.  Her expressive communication has gone through a big jump and her receptive has increased a bit as well.  If, however, you spend a bit of time with her you’ll quickly realize that there is more than meets the eye (no she’s not a Transformer hehe).

Her sentence structure is just all screwy.  Verb tense is off, pronouns are hokey, and sometimes the words she puts together just don’t mean anything.  Her understanding of what we say is also just way off.  She was discharged from occupational therapy in January and the therapist wrote that yes she could follow three-step commands with “minimal prompting.”  Over the last week I’ve probably tried 20 times to get her to follow a three-step command and without massive amounts of prompting, she didn’t get a single three-step command done.  The test example was “clap your hands, go to the door, and sit down”.  She’ll clap her hands and sit down or she’ll clap her hands then go to the door then forget what comes next.

My parents even worked with her on it and out of about six requests she completed zero.  No way does my sweet little girl follow three-step commands with minimal prompting.  She’s also likely to test out of speech therapy as well.  This is where I get concerned – she’s a “fall through the cracks” kind of kid; thankfully she’s in the kind of family that won’t allow that to happen.

She’s going to test out of speech therapy but her speech is still going to be completely wrong.  In my family we have bets as to whether she’ll test back in to speech in kindergarten or 1st grade; I’m guessing 1st grade and my mom has her money on kindergarten.  However in some families if parents were told “hey your kid’s speech is age appropriate and she can follow three-step commands” then they might leave it at that.  Fast forward a few years when the child is failing 1st or 2nd grade the parent might not realize that her child is actually delayed.  I think in education circles these children are called “slow-lows”.  My baby girl will NOT fall between the cracks.

About Melissa

Melissa is an Arizona native that loves traveling with her family. Follow Melissa on Twitter and don't forget to Subscribe to Mutterings of a Mindless Mommy. You can also find Melissa at The Autism Education Site.


  1. Your daughter has certainly made great strides and with your dedication im sure she will make many more.

  2. Thank you so much :)

  3. Another Autism Mommy says:

    Hi. I have a 4-year old daughter with mild PDD-NOS. She was diagnosed right after her 3rd birthday. At age 2, she was 10 months behind in receptive language and 8 months behind in expressive language. She screamed and covered her ears at certain sounds, was hyperactive, and avoided eye contact. She didn’t have any non-verbal gestures, such as nodding or shaking her head, until age 3 years, 3 months. At age 3, she had 3 word sentences, but was very echolalic, with garbled sentence structure. Now, she has no echolalia. She speaks in spontaneous 5-6 word sentences. She knows her first and last name, can write her name, and knows all of her letters, colors, shapes, numbers and can count to 20 and do simple addition. She went from lining up her toys at age 2 to imaginative play today. She went from no social interest to playing normally with her friends. I can still tell she has autism, though, because she avoids reciprocal conversations, never talks about the past or the future, and has never asked a “why” question in her whole life. Not one. When I ask her questions about what she did today at school, she says “stop looking at me, I don’t like talking”.

    These are very subtle things that don’t fit well into categories, and it can be hard to explain to people why my child needs special help. My daughter has met all but one of her IDP goals. I think we have some very unique kids that the system isn’t used to seeing. I also have a 2 year old nephew with the same profile, so it’s genetic, but not a genetic expression our family has ever seen before now.

  4. Another Autism Mommy,

    Thank you for sharing your story. It sounds like your daughter has made some tremendous growth but like you mention, there are still some subtle differences. My daughter started asking why as she neared her fifth birthday.

    Best wishes to you.