There are a seemingly endless number of children who can’t communicate their wants by speaking. These nonverbal autistic children have to struggle all through their lives to communicate properly. It’s often a mounting challenge for parents and educators to teach communication skills to these children.
Communicating with nonverbal autistic children
If you have an autistic child at home, here’s what you can do.
1. Use motivating people, items
Food often motivates many nonverbal autistic children. For others, it could be a particular toy, film, family member, or a friend. For instance, if your child loves interacting with a neighbor, use a variety of auditory and visual strategies to encourage communication. These may include a family member’s picture or a group photo where the neighbor is present. Help your child to identify your neighbor. When he/she is able to do it, the motivating person should come over and hug the child.
2. Label the feelings
If your child is trying to reach food inside the fridge, label the feeling by saying, “You’re hungry.” The more the child hears the feeling associated with a particular behavior, the better he/she will be able to relate to the feeling. The strategy must be consistent and should happen naturally. You may label a feeling when the child is excited, happy, hurt, or sad. For instance, if your child is excited, you can say “I see that you’re excited.” A picture of excitement can reinforce the concept better.
3. Assume competence
Assuming competence from nonverbal autistic children is a major reinforcement that a therapist, parent, or a caregiver should try. Assuming that a child CAN and WILL do something is big encouragement for any kid, autistic or not. Children can pick up quickly when another child or an adult is speaking to them differently. Encouraging words are an imperative part of nonverbal autism communication. Even a small congratulation helps children to better themselves.
4. Model language and aided simulation
Modeling a language is a good strategy for nonverbal autistic children. In most cases children aren’t aware of specific words or the structure of a sentence. You child may want water at the dinner table and indicate in a way that you’ll understand. When he/she makes the gesture, say: “I want water.” This model will help improve the child’s expressive and receptive language. Adding words like “please” or framing a sentence in the question format can give hints regarding the proper way to ask for a particular item. It helps in improving practical language skills, leading to a lesser number of nonverbal autistic adults in the society.
5. Use aided communication
Unaided communication is where the body is used to communicate, like facial expression, sign language, gestures etc. But what is aided communication? It’s anything that’s used for communication except your body. These include photographs, pictures, words etc. Many nonverbal autistic children use autism apps for functional communication. Several leading autism experts suggest that a combination of the aided and unaided methods, usually known as total communication, is the best for children with autism.