Tips For Talking To Kids With Autism
Since one of the classic symptoms of autism is a marked deficit in verbal communication abilities, a common problem for applied behavior analysts and others who work with children and even adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder is simply being able to carry on a basic conversation. Something as simple as finding out what they want for lunch or whether or not they are happy or sad or indifferent about their current school assignment can be nearly impossible to find out if you rely on normal conversational methods.
But dont let that stop you!
There are ways to have conversations with autistic kids and you can make them easier by keeping the following tips in mind.
Screaming Loud Noises Verbal Stimming
These are the sounds we autism parents hear all too frequently in our homes.
They never seem to stop.
They drive us to distraction.
They can destroy the peace and quiet of the family. Sometimes they can destroy the family itself.
When my son was little, he did a lot of screaming and verbal stimming. I discovered that with the positive behavioral method known as TAGteach I was able to reduce these sounds, increase appropriate vocalizations and get some of that precious peace and quiet.
You Are An Expert Observer Of Your Child
Every autism parent Ive ever met is an incredibly observant, detailed observer of their childs behaviors. Every autism parent Ive ever met has told me of those beautiful fleeting moments when their child did something really great. Armed with a tagger, the split second you see one of those wonderful moments, you can tag and treat, and thus reinforce that micro-second of great Eye Contact, Interaction, Vocalization or Quiet Mouth. When you reinforce a behavior, it will happen again.
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Tip One: Play Or Pair With Your Child Socially
The first step of ABA Therapy is “pairing,” during which a Behavior Technician spends session time playing with a child to connect with that child and learn what he or she would respond most positively to. The same strategy can be used at home. All children learn through play, and that includes learning a language. Some games more than others provide enjoyment as much as opportunities for you and your child to communicate. Any game or activity that promotes social interaction can increase language understanding. Examples include:
- Gentle wrestling or roughhousing
- Pretend play or acting out favorite scenes
During these interactions, remember to encourage eye-level, face-to-face contact so your child can see you and hear your words as you verbalize, or narrate your shared activity.
Beware The Extinction Burst Wait It Out
IMPORTANT FINAL NOTE: Please remember, whenever you start using positive reinforcement to increase a behavior, you are changing the childs environment, and he/she may have a reaction to that change. Frequently the reaction is an increase in the undesired behavior . This well-documented phenomenon is called an extinction burst, and the only way to handle it is just to wait it out.
So, if you see an uptick in the unwanted behavior, dont panic. Just wait it out. The undesired behavior will decrease fairly rapidly as the extinction burst winds down, and then the desired behavior will increase. With time and practice, your child will be able to sit quietly in the car, dining room and classroom and vocalize appropriately in a variety of settings.
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Are There Specific Therapies That Can Help Non Verbal Autism
Behavioural therapy and speech therapy can be very useful in helping to teach kids with autism develop some communication, speech and language skills.
Over time, some autistic children will develop some simple forms of speech.
However, sometimes autistic children will learn other methods of communication and will never speak. Visual aids or assistive technologies can be incredible tools to help non verbal autistic children communicate.
Alternative and Augmentative Communication approaches can be used to help communication skills.
- Picture based systems- like pictures, books and boards. This is called Picture Exchange Communication
- Speech generating devices . Missouri Assistive Technology explains that these range from simple, single message devices with less than a minute of speech to highly complex, computer-based systems capable of generating virtually unlimited numbers of messages.
Some SGDs use recorded human speech.
Others use computer-generated speech and some of those have text-to-speech capacity .
- Other assistive technology such as portable word processors can help written communication
Many autistic children find that wearing noise cancelling headphones is helpful in reducing over excessive auditory stimulation.
Autism speaks suggests that through play at home and therapy, many children after the age of 4 may eventually develop language. Activities that will help include:
Engage in play and activity at the childs eye level.
Tips To Help Your Child Find Their Voice
It is important to give your child the opportunity to find their voice while also supporting them. They may show some initiative but they may need direction while learning how to express themselves.
There are some exercises that you can practice to promote speech and encourage your child to express themselves clearly.
Make an effort to talk: It is a difficult situation. But dont just avoid including your child into conversation. These attempts at conversation could actually be beneficial for them to understand the practice.
Keep it simple: Keep your sentences short and be direct. Adjust the conversation level to that the child can maintain. Wait for them to process fully.
Take note of nonverbal signals: Being nonverbal does not mean that your child is not communicating in some other way. Be aware of their behaviors. Since children with autism have difficulty in expressing themselves by using language, they refer to behaviors that could signal what they might try to verbalize.
Dont push: Yes, of course increase the level of activities to expand the boundaries of your childs capabilities. But if you feel like your child is overwhelmed, then take a break and try again later at a better time. Children with autism have very specific routines and they get.
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What Does Nonverbal Autism Mean
Nonverbal autism is not a diagnosis within itself. It simply means a child or person struggles with verbal communication. For those in the autism spectrum, theres no clear-cut line between verbal and nonverbal autism. Like autism spectrum disorder itself, its complicated.
Here are a few examples of how complicated nonverbal communication is within the autism spectrum:
- Some children with autism will say simple words to communicate what they want. For instance, a child will say car to mean I want to go for a car ride. But for those who dont know the child, they will think the child is just identifying the vehicle. While this child can use simple words to ask a question, he/she cannot answer a follow-up question like Where do you want to go?
- Other children are able to use more complex words, but they lack meaningfulness. Example: They can echo or recite sentences from movies or scripts learned from a therapist. When this type of nonverbal communication is done, the child is not communicating their wants or needs.
- Many children with nonverbal autism are able to communicate there wants and needs through sign language, flashcards or digital devices.
Can A Child Be Nonverbal And Not Autistic
As we have mentioned numerous times, children develop at their own rates. But there are some milestones they hit while growing up.
Studies show that typically developing children generally produce their first words between 12 and 18 months old. However, in the case of children with autism, this rate is reported to be an average age of 36 months.
Late speech does not necessarily mean autism diagnosis. A child could be nonverbal or have delayed speech for some other unrelated reasons. Here are some:
- Problems with the mouth
- Autism spectrum disorder
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Assume That Most Of Their Identity Is Down To Autism Rather Than Personality Choices
The phrase yeah, thats his autism is one I have heard far too many times. Even in professional circles.
Yes, our autism influences us. Yes, it often gives us particular habits or interests unique to us. But to say its just his/her autism is implying that we dont get any say in the matter.
I remember when I was running a chess tournament in a special school . One crucial match was scheduled for a day when the school was doing a special event. Throughout the day there was only one opportunity for this game to be played and ten minutes before the start, one of the students got a migraine and had to go home.
This stressed me out because I was relying on that matchs result so I could drive straight to the trophy centre after work and have the prizes engraved . And Im fairly transparent, so people could tell I was bothered by something.
When I told one of my colleagues I was feeling stressed, she immediately asked me oh dear- is it because todays been a break from routine?
No, it wasnt.
Some other examples:
That said, there is a balance. Like I said, autism does have an impact on us. I used to watch Independence Day on video over and over and over and over again when I was twelve, and you could validly say that this habit was influenced by my Aspergers. But the main reason it happened was because Independence Day was an awesome movie!
This Is A Great Time To Parent A Child With Autism
“I am grateful that we live in the times that we do. So much new information has been discovered about autism. We live in the age of the internet and I can connect with another autism mom who lives several states or even countries over and talk about our shared experiences. I am grateful to have things like iPads that not only help my son communicate but also gives us a chance to share a moment while watching one of his favorite YouTube clips. A tip of my cap to the families that went before us. They really helped pave the way for the benefits my son has now. I hope I can do the same for the ones coming behind us.”
Eileen Shaklee, Wall, New Jersey
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Celebrate All Of Your Childs Achievements
I wish I had known that unlike other parents we cant take even the smallest achievement or milestone for granted. When our son started wearing his coat without a fight and expressed that he was cold, when he was able to participate in circle time during music class and when he got up on stage with the other kids at his school show we celebrated.
Steven Grossman, Los Angeles
Communication Should Be The Priority
The fact is, instead of asking when will my autistic child talk? we should be asking how can my autistic child communicate?
The priority should be on empowering our autistic childs communication abilities.
Thats where the true power is.
Thats what helps them connect with others. Thats what helps them self-advocate. Thats what helps them get their needs met.
But heres a secret
Your autistic child already has the ability to communicate.
Yes, even if theyre completely non-speaking.
Yes, even if they dont use PECS or sign language.
Yes, even if you are positive they dont communicate.
They do, I promise you.
See, there are5 primary types of autistic communication, and EVERY autistic person communicates with one or more of these types.
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Your Child With Autism May Bring Out The Best In Your Family
“Our son is the oldest of our three children, and he has taught us all the importance of kindness, patience, compassion, listening and respect. These attributes allow our family to keep a very grounded and real perspective on what is truly important in life vs. what is fleeting, frivolous or simply not worthy of our energy.”
Stephanie Martin, Greenville, South Carolina
“It’s exciting and challenging because each day holds a new adventure. Despite the challenges of having a child on the spectrum, my life is perfectly complete. My son challenges me to be a better parent every single day.”
Yolanda Holmes, Greenville, South Carolina
What Does The Future Look Like For Nonverbal Children
Nonverbal children with autism could have a comfortable and quality life. It is important that with the right help, they could equip themselves with the necessary skills to live their life normally.
Although nonverbal, children with autism use other methods to communicate. Certain strategies, which we will discuss here, could be used to leverage these methods and add on to them.
Not being able to speak to communicate should not be seen as a setback, but as a challenge that could be overcome. Although there is no magic cure to achieve speech, your child could go a long way with your support.
Once they understand and learn a way to express what they are feeling, be it verbal or nonverbal, they will have a more positive attitude towards communication.
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When It Comes To Autism One Size Doesnt Fit All
If you put a PlayStation game into an Xbox, would it work? Of course not. So does that mean the Xbox is broken? No. The same thing applies for a child with autism. Just because they dont learn the way typical children do doesnt mean there is something wrong with them. It means that we as parents, caregivers, friends, neighbors and teachers need to find different ways to try and make a connection.
Laura Jones, Lambertville, New Jersey
Develops Symptoms After Early Childhood
Your child developed and behaved like most children until they reached the age of 6 or older. Then symptoms that seem to point to autism sprang from nowhere.
In order to for be diagnosed with autism, your child must have first shown symptoms at an early age, even if those symptoms only caused problems in later years. A brand new symptom at age 12 or 14 may look a little like autism, but the likely cause is something else.
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Are All Autistics Nonverbal
There is no simple or straightforward answer to this question. There are nonverbal autistic people and there may be different reasons behind an autistic person being nonverbal. This doesnt necessarily mean that they will never speak or will speak at a specific time when specific methods are followed.
Individuals with autism may have delays or difficulties with speech and communication and the severity thereof changes from one autistic person to another. Each autistic person has different communication skills. While some can speak well, others may not speak at all. It is estimated that around 40% of children on the autism spectrum are nonverbal .
Nonverbal autism is essentially when the autistic individual has difficulty speaking. This could be where one doesnt speak clearly or without any interruptions. Differently from those who have difficulty carrying out conversations, nonverbal autistic individuals dont speak at all.
This could be the result of a couple of things. The child may have of speech, where the persons ability to say what they actually want correctly can be interfered with. It could also be because the child has not yet developed verbal language skills to speak. Sometimes, some children with autism may also lose verbal skills they have acquired if the symptoms of the disorder become more prominent and worsen in time.
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What Are The Early Signs Of Nonverbal Autism
You will start to notice that your child is not reaching milestones that other children are in terms of language and interaction.
Common concerns are:
- Not responding to their own name by the age of 1
- Not laughing and trying to make speech sounds by age 1
- Not making eye contact or desiring social interaction
Typically 1/3 of parents notice symptoms before the age of 1.
Most parents notice symptoms around the age of 2.
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Tip Six: Consider Voice Devices Or Visual Supports
In many special needs classes, I’ve taught where nonverbal kids have not yet found their voice, they depend on technological tablets. Some teachers refer to these as that child’s “voice.” When there is a struggle, the teacher or parent points to the device and directs the child to “use voice.” These help the child communicate through pictures and audible readings of words and phrases.
These devices and apps are accessed through touch and can help your child develop and practice verbalization of words.
Your child’s therapists are uniquely qualified to help you select and use these and other strategies to develop language skills. By working with your child’s ABA Therapy team, you can help provide the support your child needs to find their “voice.”
“Whatever a child’s communicative level is, it is important to know that ABA can help an individual share their voice,’ even if that is in a non-spoken form,” says Brian Kaminski, MA, BCBA.
While ABA can certainly emphasize strengthening vocal’ communication, it can also help shape alternative forms of communication like sign language, augmentative communication devices, or a Picture Exchange Communication System, often referred to as PECS.
All of these forms of communication will help ensure a child’s needs are being met, they have greater independence, and improved the overall quality of life.”
What Age Do Autistic Children Talk
Autistic children with verbal communication generally hit language milestones later than children with typical development.
While typically developing children produce their first words between 12 and 18 months old, autistic children were found to do so at an average of 36 months.Since each autistic child is unique in their development, the age when they produce their first words differs.
Until recently, parents and caregivers of children with autism were made to believe that their child would not speak ever if they did not do so by the time they turn 4 or five.
However, a recent study showed that most of the children participating in the study acquired language skills, and almost half of them became fluent speakers. More than 70% could speak in simple phrases. This indicates that language-delayed children with autism could eventually develop speech.
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