To a parent with a child who has autism, the beginning of speech seems a lot like this - the mythical Phoenix rising from the ashes of past dreams. We have spent a lot of time and money having Alanna work with a speech-language pathologist, with follow-up from her IBI team to get her to speak. She has speech apraxia, so despite her best attempts to imitate vocally (despite effort, intention and desire), she cannot make many sounds without a lot of help. It is incredibly frustrating for her. I am convinced without this additional impediment she would be very vocal (perhaps not communicating functionally, but have no trouble with vocal imitation).
We have been using PROMPT, a technique that gives Alanna some physical cues about lip, jaw and tongue placement to make sounds. Once she has a sound, she also has difficulty isolating it and combining it with new sounds to make words. For example, trying to get her to imitate \o\ (as in go) can be tough because she learned this sound as go, and so the "g" has to be in front to get to the "o", and if you want to combine "o" with something else, we have to get her to drop the "g".
However, she is now "emergently" verbal. We have several words that are consistent and have meaning:
Of course all of this is very expensive but it is also worth it. Every word she can say is like gold because it makes it easier for her to communicate and be understood.