Posted on: 2 April 2018
Children with autism often struggle with communication, especially verbal communication. As a parent, it can be difficult to watch your child wrestle with this important skill; however, as your child's first teacher and primary caregiver, there are many strategies that you can use to encourage your child with autism to communicate more effectively. Take a look at some of the things that you can do to help:
Model Language For Your Child
Modeling language for your child is a great place to start. This is a strategy that's extremely important even for neurotypical children, and even more so for children who are on the autism spectrum. Children imitate their parents and other adults in their orbit, and especially in the years before they're ready for school, you are your child's most significant influence.
Talk to your child often, even if you're not sure whether they're listening or taking in the things that you're saying. Narrate what you're doing as you go about your household chores. Point to items and say their names. If your child indicates non-verbally that they want something, like a toy, hold the toy and demonstrate asking for it – say, "I want the doll, please," or something similar – before giving it to them. You don't have to wait for them to repeat it back to you – they may not – but it can help to demonstrate the words and sentence structure that they would need to verbalize the request next time.
Give Your Child Language for Their Feelings
It can be especially difficult for your child with autism to grasp the language of feelings. Help them out by labeling their feelings as they demonstrate them. You can do this with simple sentences, like saying "you are sad" when your child is crying, or "you are thirsty" when they ask for a drink.
Look for opportunities to do this as often as possible. The more your child hears the words that are connected with specific feelings, the more they'll learn to associate the language with those feelings. This will allow them to more easily learn to verbalize their feelings themselves.
Use a Total Communication Approach
Learning to verbalize is important, but other aspects of communication are also important. Even if your child struggles with words, the odds are good that they use other means to communicate, like gestures and facial expressions. Encourage this by using your own gestures and facial expressions along with your words.
You can also use things other than your body, like pictures and photographs, to help your child communicate. The most important thing is that they can make themselves understood. Use whatever methods of communication are useful to your child in order to make sure that they can make themselves understood. It's OK for your child to take their time perfecting the ability to communicate verbally, but they need to be able to communicate their feelings, wants, and needs in the meantime.
Make sure that you look into autism resources in your area – not just resources for your child, but resources to help you learn how to effectively parent a child who has autism. The more help you have, the better. You can contact autism communication experts like Terri Matthews for more information.Share