Promoting Language Development in children with Autism – Top Ten Strategies

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that causes social, communication, and behavioral challenges. A child with autism who is very sensitive may be greatly troubled, sometimes even pained by sounds, touches, smells, or sights that seem reasonable to others. Children who are autistic may have repetitive, stereotyped body movements such as rocking, pacing, or hand flapping. They may have unusual responses to people, attachments to objects, resistance to change in their routines, or aggressive or self-injurious behavior.

One should know that each person with autism is unique. Even with much effort, some strategies may work well with one child, and some may not work with another. So here is the list of  top ten techniques that are used for promoting language development in nonverbal children with autism:

1. By simplifying the  language

By simplifying the language, it helps the child to follow up what you are saying. It also helps to make it easier for them to imitate your speech.

If the child is nonverbal, try speaking in single words. If the child is speaking single words, try using short phrases. Generally, using phrases with one more word than your child is using will help.

2. By Encouraging social interaction

Children will learn through play. Interactive play provides opportunities for both parents and the child to communicate. Try finding different games that are interactive and is enjoyable for the child. Also, try playful activities that promote social interaction. For example, singing, reciting nursery rhymes, etc. During the interactions, maintain eye contact, so it is easier for the child to see and hear you.

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3. Leaving “space” for your child to talk

It is very important to give your child opportunities to communicate, even if he/she isn’t talking. When you ask questions or see that your child wants something, pause for several seconds by looking at him expectantly. Watch for any body movement and respond immediately. By responding immediately, it helps the child to feel the power of communication.

4. Imitating your child.

Imitating the child’s play behaviors will encourage interaction. It will also encourage the child to copy you and take turns. Make sure you mimic only the positive behaviors. For example, if the child is breaking a toy, then do not imitate that. It would encourage the child to do this kind of behavior.

5. By Focusing on nonverbal communication

Eye contact and gestures can help to build a foundation for language. Exaggerating your gestures will help them communicate more efficiently. By using both body and voice while communicating is an easier way. Using gestures that are easy for your child to imitate should be done. For example, cpping, opening hands, reaching out arms, etc. Responding to your child’s gestures immediately is necessary.

6. Consider using assistive devices and visual supports

Assistive technologies and visual supports can do much more than just replacing speech. They can help in speech development. For example, include apps that have pictures that your child touches to produce words. On a simpler level, visual supports may include pictures and groups of pictures that your child can use to indicate requests and thoughts.

7. Follow your child’s interests.

Instead of interrupting your child’s focus, follow along with words. For example, If he’s playing with a shape sorter, you might say the word like “in” when he puts a shape in its place. You might say “shape” when he holds up the shape. By talking about what engages your child, you’ll be able to help him learn the associated vocabulary.

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8.Label feelings as they occur

The more your child hears the particular feeling with a specific behavior, the better they will be able to understand that feeling. For example, if the child is reaching for food in the fridge, label the feeling, say “You are hungry”.This technique needs to occur naturally and should be consistent. Modeling a feeling can happen when your child is excited, sad, hurt, happy, etc. For example, as your child expresses their excitement, say “I see you are excited”. If you have a picture of “excited” it can help to reinforce the concept more.

9. By Assuming competence

Assuming competence is one of the most important things that one can do as a parent, caregiver, therapist, teacher, etc. Assuming competence for any child, whether they have a disability or not, is a form of empowerment. Assuming that your child can do it and will do it is powerful. Another concept is speaking to a child with Autism like any other child. Children with or without disabilities pick up very quickly when an adult or another child is speaking to them in a different way. This can be a strategy that can be very helpful when telling others how to speak to your child.

10. Enter their world by using motivation(maybe people, items) to encourage communication

For some children, chocolate is motivating. For others, it could be a specific toy, movie, friend, family member, or neighbor.

For example, if your child loves interacting with a specific member of a family, use the motivating person to encourage communication. If you are using this person to encourage communication, use a variety of visual and auditory strategies (e.g., use a picture of the family member and/or model the name of this individual). Encourage your child to point to the picture of this person or exchange the picture with you to request it. When they are able to point or exchange the picture, the motivating person could come over to the child and give him or her a hug to fulfill the request.

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