It’s always a beautiful moment for any new parent when a child says their first word. Usually “mama” or “dada,” it’s the first huge milestone of a child’s development.
But some parents have to wait much longer than others. Children develop at different rates, and disorders like autism can make it difficult, maybe even impossible, for a child to communicate verbally.
For one mother, a first word came at a time and place she least expected it—and now it’s going viral online.
In June 2012, Briana Blankenship, from Athens, Alabama, gave birth to her first daughter, Taylor. At first, everything seemed great: Taylor was developing normally, even quickly for her age. She was walking at just 10 months old.
But as time went on, it became clear to the parents that not everything was okay. Taylor wasn’t talking.
“At age 2 we were concerned because Taylor still hadn’t developed speech,” Taylor told Love What Matters. “She would hum, jabber, and squeal but she wouldn’t mimic sounds and she wouldn’t try to form words.”
Time went on and the parents tried everything to get her to speak, or to find an explanation to why she wasn’t developing speech, like having her hearing tested.
Nothing worked, and Taylor was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder.
Doctors and therapist warned that she might never talk at all.
“I had basically accepted that I would never hear her voice,” Blankenship told Bored Panda.
However, Blankenship didn’t give up, and tried to give her daughter ever advantage she could.
“We communicate with limited sign language and gestures,” Briana said. “We also have an iPad that is locked so that the only program she can access is a communication program called LAMP [which] she uses to complete work in school.”
The parents also enrolled Taylor, now 5 years old, in a gymnastics class to help with her development. On the way to class on April 30, she stopped at the McDonald’s drive-thru to get Taylor something quick to eat.
Little did she know, something miraculous would happen in that fast food drive-thru.
“She was about to get her favorite food, French fries, and started getting excited and giggling in the back seat,” Blankenship said.
“That’s when I heard her say it.”
Taylor said her first word—momma!
Blankenship was stunned—this was such a breakthrough moment that she didn’t even care where she was.
“I whipped my head around and asked ‘Did you just say Momma?’ and she looked at me and said it again,” Blankenship told Scary Mommy.
“I was so excited that I put the car in park right there in the line, dug my phone out of my purse, and started the video.”
Blankenship recorded her daughter excitedly repeating the word to her.
She was overjoyed with pride, responding with “yay!” each time.
Blankenship said that she broke down in tears after recording the video, which confused the McDonald’s employees.
“I am ugly crying in the McDonald’s parking lot and the employees probably think I’m crazy,” she wrote on Facebook. “I’m pretty sure I held up the drive thru line but there was no way I wasn’t getting proof of this.”
The video has gone viral, inspiring people all over the internet.
Blankenship has gotten an extremely positive outpouring of support since posting the video, and hopes that the viral success will lead to a more positive outlook on children with autism.
“We are most excited about bringing Autism into the light on a good and realistic viewpoint,” she told Scary Mommy. “Hopefully with all the attention the video is getting we can encourage more people to educate themselves on autism.”
“With understanding comes acceptance and that’s all we can ask for.”