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How “The Bones” by Maren Morris Can Teach Us About Language Development in Autistic Kids

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

When the bones are good, the rest don’t matter

Yeah the paint could peel, the glass could shatter

Let it rain ’cause you and I remain the same

When there ain’t a crack in the foundation

Baby I know every storm we’re facing

Will blow right over while we stay put

The house don’t fall when the bones are good.


I’m sure you’ve heard the house building analogy to explain a lot of different concepts. And autism is no different. Let’s talk about how “The Bones” can teach us everything we need to know about language development in autistic kids.


Image by The Vibe Guide

Imagine you’re building a house. The first step is laying the foundation. The next step is putting up the walls. The next step is laying down the roof. The final steps are putting in the light fixtures, the paint, the decor.


With autistic kids, it’s easy for us to see what’s on the outside, on the surface. Think of the roof of the house as language. If you were walking down the street and saw a house without a roof, the first thing you would think is, they better get a roof on that house and quick.


With an autistic child who doesn’t have language, we’re seeing a house with no roof. We start to think we better get to work on that. After all, every house needs a roof, right?


But we have a problem. We forgot to check the foundation. What if the foundation is cracked? If the foundation isn’t stable, we can go ahead and put a roof on the house, but it’s not going to live through a big storm. Not only that, but what about putting on a second story? The most important step in building a house is creating a stable foundation. From there you can build as big of a house as you want.


The problem is that it’s hard to see the foundation - because it’s under the surface of the house. It’s easy to see the roof because it’s in plain sight. It’s not as easy to tell if foundation is sturdy.


Autistic kids have three skills that make up their foundation: Regulation, engagement, and motivation. These are internal - they happen on the inside. Whereas language is something external - it’s something we can actually hear.


If we don’t strengthen a child’s regulation, engagement, and motivation, our foundation will not be stable, and our house will never survive the storm. Not only that, but we can never build up - it will be hard to work on higher level language and cognitive skills without a strong base.


So read these lyrics again.


When the bones are good, the rest don’t matter

Yeah the paint could peel, the glass could shatter

Let it rain ’cause you and I remain the same

When there ain’t a crack in the foundation

Baby I know every storm we’re facing

Will blow right over while we stay put

The house don’t fall when the bones are good.


When we ensure the child has strong foundational skills (regulation, engagement, and motivation), we are able to begin to confidently build language skills. We know that the child’s language skills are going to be stronger and more consistent when we’ve laid a strong foundation. And ultimately, we can go on to build a two-story house (i.e., target higher level language and cognitive skills) because we know that the foundation is strong enough to support it.




Jessie Ginsburg, M.S., CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist, autism expert, and owner of Pediatric Therapy Playhouse, a multidisciplinary clinic in Los Angeles.


If you're an SLP, click here to learn about the Inside Out Sensory Certificate for SLPs. If you're a parent of an autistic child or child with sensory needs, click here to learn about the Inside Out Sensory Communication Program for Parents.

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