Communication is something that is often taken for granted, but for individuals with autism, the ability to communicate wants and needs can be difficult and frustrating. In today’s blog, we’ll talk about a few different forms of communication, and how to help individuals with autism effectively communicate with the world around them.
Parents know their children better than anyone, including understanding their non-vocal cues, no matter how subtle they may be. This can be great around your home, but your child may also learn that they don’t need to learn to request things. As your child gets older, and begins to attend school and venture out into the community more, a key factor will be to make sure they can communicate their wants and needs to those around them, whether it’s vocally or non-vocally. It’s important to note that, while many people think communicating is strictly vocal language, it’s actually far more than that. Eye contact, gestures, pointing at or reaching for things – these are all common and important forms of communication that don’t require vocal language. The earlier a child is taught these alternative communication skills, the easier it will be for them to have their needs met.
Signs your child is ready for more
Every child has a set of strengths and deficits that are unique from one another, so we work closely with each family to identify your child’s existing communication skills and better understand what they are trying to tell us through each action, sound, and gesture. Some children may guide their therapist’s hand to a toy, some may make vocalizations in an attempt to say the item’s name, and others might point to or reach for an item. All these actions signify that your child may be ready to take the next step and improve the skills they already have. Once we identify your child’s primary method of communication, our team can work on ways to teach your child how to request items and activities in a way that can be understood across multiple environments.
Tips for practicing at home
A great way to practice communication is to use some of your child’s favorite toys and items in an environment they find comfortable. If your child always has everything they want or need with them, they will have little motivation to learn how to ask for something. By using your child’s favorite items, it will encourage them to learn effective ways to ask for their favorite toys, food, and activities. Additionally, practicing in a familiar place, like your home or a close family member’s home, will help your child generalize these skills across multiple environments while also maintaining a level of security.
One example of this is to keep the lego pieces close to you while your child is playing to limit their free access to them, then encouraging them to request pieces as they need them and immediately honoring those requests. Additionally, if you know your child is going to want a preferred snack, instead of grabbing it for them ahead of time, prompt them to request the snack themselves. Patience and consistency is also key when working on communication, as is providing plenty of praise when your child does request for something independently. Expressing excitement about your child’s requests will pair the requests with social praise and make them more motivated to request items and activities in the future.
Share breakthroughs with your team
The greatest way to make progress is to work as a team. By sharing what has been working at home, as well as any challenges you may be encountering with your child’s BCBA, you can work together to create the most effective plan to improve your child’s communication skills during ABA sessions as well. Being on the same page with your child’s ABA team will help increase their skills at a faster rate as well as generalize them across multiple people and settings. Increasing your child’s ability to ask for the things they want and need, whether it’s vocally or non-vocally, will have a profound effect on their ability to form relationships with others, and will also help them prosper in school. Communication is such an important fundamental skill, when your child gains the ability to communicate with others, it can help them thrive in so many other ways as well.
Thanks for reading! If your child is currently receiving services with us and you would like to discuss ways to improve your child’s communication skills, please reach out to us to help create an individualized plan to suit your child’s specific skills and needs. Follow us on social media to stay up to date on what’s new with Golden State, and catch the latest blogs for more helpful guides like this.
Have a great day!