TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) - For parents, hearing the words, "I love you" from their child for the first time can mean so much, but for some parents, like Tiffoni and Zach Eaton, hearing those words can be delayed for some time.
Now, the Eatons says they are grateful for the Regional Rehabilitation Center in Tupelo for giving their son, Zeb, 3, a voice.
"Before, Zeb wasn't talking at all," Tiffoni said. "He was maybe jibber and jabbering here and there. He wasn't using hand gestures. He wasn't pointing at things."
Zeb receives speech therapy at the Rehab Center.
Tiffoni said she has been given something she thought she would never have after.
"Honestly, I didn't know that I would ever hear Zeb talk," she said. "We thought for a while that he would just be non-verbal. So to hear him say words or to make gestures or to give us a kiss and love on us...you can’t even explain the feeling really.”
Kammie Riddle, a speech therapist at the center, said Zeb starting saying "I love you" to his family and other little things that many people take for granted.
Riddle has worked with Zeb on his speech for a little over a year.
He was diagnosed with autism. To express his excitement, Riddle says he stems.
"It’s different for most kids, what their stem is," she said. "His is squealing and jumping and flapping his hands.”
While Zeb thinks his time at Regional Rehab is playtime, Riddle uses a technique to help him with his speech.
"I’m doing a lot of modeling," she said. "If he wants something and I know he wants it, I set it up to where he has to ask for help or do something to make me know what he wants.”
During his time at the center, Zeb is finding his voice and sharing it with his family.
To help the Regional Rehabilitation Center provide free services like speech therapy to children like Zeb Eaton, you can tune into the Celebration of Hope telethon on Sunday, Nov. 17 at 1 p.m. on ABC-WTVA.