"She couldn't read or write and, like many autistic children, didn't like talking to anyone but herself. At 5, she could speak only 200 words, all nouns, mostly Disney characters or Thomas the Tank Engine trains. She had just learned to say "Mommy" and "Daddy". For three years, my wife Joyce and I had battled Isabel's inability to relate to people, and she had made steady progress."When Isabel's teacher introduced her to Linnea in Monet's Garden, it started the family on a journey to the garden in Giverny.
"Call the trip extravagant, but that single day in Giverny transformed her in a way we never anticipated. She started saying words in French so often that we enrolled her in a French class. It was like speech therapy - simple conversation in pretend social settings - and she blossomed. She absorbed the vocabulary and pronunciation with such speed that her teacher asked if her mother was French.
One day, she approached a stranger walking his dog and asked: "Le chien est gentil?" I translated: "Is your dog nice?" He nodded yes, and Isabel, who had been terrified of dogs for years, touched the top of its head.
Few experts would suggest that a child with autism study a foreign language, but it worked for her. She applied the French lessons to new situations, at home and in public. The people she spoke to didn't speak French, but it didn't matter to us. She was interacting with the world."