Every human interaction is based on communication, but children with autism spectrum disorder have several challenges in both verbal and non-verbal communication both at home and outside. This is why it is important to encourage communication in such children from a very young age.
However, doing this comes with its fair share of challenges. Encouraging and supporting communication in autistic children includes employing specialized techniques that cater to their individual needs and communication preferences.
Below in this article, we are going to outline some important ways parents, caregivers, and educators implement to encourage and nurture communication in children with autism.
- Visual Support and Communication Apps
Children with autism find it difficult to learn through verbal communication. For such children, it is great to use visual support tools. These tools include visual schedules, picture cards, communication boards, and social stories that can help such children express their needs and feelings.
When your child is able to do this, it will bridge the communication gap and help both of you understand each other’s concerns. Along with these supports, there are also some communication apps on tablets and other devices that can meet the communication needs of children with autism.
What these tools do is they offer alternative means of expression by using symbols, text, or speech output. This way, children who struggle with verbal communication are empowered to convey their thoughts, emotions, and desires effectively.
- Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy and speech-language therapy are a couple of proven methods that can address communication challenges in children with autism. ABA therapy utilizes structured interventions to teach communication skills systematically.
It focuses on breaking down communication tasks into smaller and easier steps that make it easy to learn skills for children with autism.
Speech-language therapy, on the other hand, focuses on improving language comprehension, social communication, and language skills. Speech therapists use multiple techniques such as visual supports, play-based activities, and social skill training to improve communication abilities in children.
Remember that ABA and speech therapy sessions are individualized and target specific communication goals based on the child’s needs and abilities.
- Social Stories and Role-Playing
Let’s first understand what social stories and role-playing really are. Social stories are personalized narratives that explain social situations, social cues, expected behaviors, and appropriate responses in various scenarios. These stories help children understand and navigate social interactions to prepare them for real-life situations.
Role-playing activities involve acting out scenarios to practice social skills and appropriate communication behaviors. By role-playing common social interactions, children can experience firsthand the expectations and responses within different social contexts.
This experience-based learning approach allows them to practice communication skills in a controlled and supportive environment.
Just be sure to create personalized social stories and role-playing scenarios based on your child’s experiences and real-life scenarios. This will increase their relevance and effectiveness in teaching the required communication skills to children.
- Positive Reinforcement and Patience
Positive reinforcement means offering rewards or acknowledgments to your child for any communication effort they make. This can be both verbal and non-verbal. Doing this will make them realize their attempts are recognized, and they will be motivated to take other communication initiatives.
This approach can also promote a positive communication environment where your child knows that their efforts are recognized. They will show a willingness to continue attempting to communicate.
Maintaining patience with your child provides them enough time to process the information you convey. So they can formulate a response that is appropriate according to the situation. Just be sure to give them enough time to devise a response. Put no pressure on them and allow them to communicate comfortably at their own pace.
- Utilize Special Interests
Every child has some special interests or passions. These passions can be used as an effective way to promote communication. All you need to do is include these interests in the learning and communication activities of your child.
For example, if your child likes trains, you can use train-themed materials to teach them how to communicate. Doing this will captivate their interest and encourage participation in communication. Teaching with themed materials will pique their interest and make learning more enjoyable.
You can also integrate their interests into speech and language exercises. These exercises will create opportunities to start conversations. Encouraging discussions related to their interests can improve communication and help children express themselves more comfortably.
By utilizing these interests, parents and educators can create a supportive environment where communication will be nurtured.
- Implement Structured Routines
Children with autism are comfortable with structured routines because they provide them with predictability. Getting involved in structured routines helps reduce the anxiety level of these children. You can use visual schedules to outline the structured routine of your child.
Visual schedules help children anticipate daily routines and transition between activities. This provides a sense of control and reduces uncertainty, which is a major problem for children with autism. Structured routines also allow consistency in their daily activities, and they feel comfortable in communication.
Visual schedules also help children in expressing their preferences, choices, or desires. Using visual cues within the schedule, such as icons representing activities or choices, allows children to communicate their preferences non-verbally. This encourages participation and engagement in decision-making.
- Provide Choices for Starting Communication
Children with autism appreciate choices and feel more comfortable communicating with others. Presenting options for activities, snacks, or preferred items allows children to express their preferences. This approach helps in communication and decision-making.
Offering choices also encourages children to initiate communication by expressing their desires or preferences independently. Creating environments that promote opportunities for starting communication is very important.
Finding activities or situations that require interaction or communication initiation encourages children to express themselves. Whether it’s through requesting items, sharing experiences, or seeking attention, these opportunities promote independent communication attempts.
By following these strategies, you can encourage your child to communicate in both indoor and outdoor environments. This approach will not only provide momentary benefits but also lead to better communication in the long term.