Many people, including the parents of children with autism thought that their children will not be likely to speak if they do not do so by the age of 4. This view has been countered with the idea that children can overcome nonverbal autism even during adolescence. Researchers recently conducted a study with more than 500 children and this research suggests promising findings that children with autism can develop even after the age of 4.
Every parent would like to help their child speak so that they can better communicate their feelings and thoughts. In light of this research, there are a few things you can do to help your nonverbal child speak. However, due to the nature of autism spectrum disorder, no two individuals with autism are the same. Thus, a tip that works fine with your neighbor may not do the trick for your child. Do not despair; most individuals with autism learn to communicate in some way even if not through spoken language. Nonetheless, this does not mean nonverbal people with autism cannot live a comfortable life or contribute to society.
Living with autism is possible in nonverbal autism, with the right techniques encouraging your nonverbal child with autism learn.
Here are 10 things you can do to encourage language development in nonverbal individuals with autism:
1. Promote social interaction
Children learn through what they do and see in their environment. They also learn how to talk through play and games. If you provide interactive play, they will have opportunities to be social and talk. Try to play games that your child enjoys and encourage social interactions. While playing or perhaps singing, try to stay in front of your child on eye level, so that he/she can see and hear you clearly.
2. Encourage facilitated communication
Find what motivates your child. This could be food, some place or someone they love, it could be a toy or a movie. Try to use what motivates them and use it to encourage them about learning to communicate. For instance, you can pick their favorite food and use various visual and auditory aids, like a picture of that food. Then you can ask your child to pick the picture of their favorite food; when they succeed, you can give this food as treat afterward. This will motivate nonverbal children to speak.
3. Mimic your child
In order to autistic childs learns to talk and build communicative skills, research suggests that you should mimic your child’s behaviors to encourage them be more vocal and interactive. They will also understand to copy you and take turns. However, it is important that you only imitate the positive behavior. Try to avoid throwing or crashing items.
4. Use simple language
By simplifying the language you use, you help your child to follow and understand what you are saying more easily. It also helps him/her to imitate the speech. If your child is nonverbal, you can try by starting to use only single words. For instance, you can point to the toy and say “toy” or “play”. If he/she is getting used to speaking and can use single words, up one more word and start speaking in small phrases, like “take toy” or “play ball”. Just keep this going by using one more word that your child uses.
5. Utilize nonverbal communication
Nonverbal communication can be the basis of language development. Respond and model your child’s behavior by encouraging them. Use both your body language and your voice while communicating, and exaggerate every gesture. You can nod your head while also saying “yes”, for instance. The easier these gestures are, the easier for your child to understand, imitate and build communicative skills. When your child points at something, acknowledge the gesture and either take the thing and give it to him/her or take it yourself. Then, mimic your child by doing the same; point at a thing before taking it.
6. Take their interests into consideration
Just follow their lead. In communication disorders, focus is the hardest to find. If they have some, do not interrupt the focus of your nonverbal children, and accompany them with words. If they are holding a shape, say “shape”. If they are putting the shape into where it belongs, say “in”. By talking along with their behaviors, nonverbal people will associate the vocabulary with the action.
7. Believe they can do it
Assuming autistic childs are competent is one of the most crucial things you can do to encourage them in general. It is a way of empowering them. Children can understand when you speak to them differently or not. It does not matter if they have a disability or not. If you assume your child with autism spectrum can do it, they will do it.
8. Leave them space
It is easy to get caught up on the rush and feel the urge to complete the sentences your child cannot complete in a minute. However, it is important to let them gather their mind and take the opportunity to communicate in autism spectrum disorder. This is important even if your child is not talking. When you ask a question or notice your child wants something, just wait a few moments before demanding something from them. Observe their body language. When they express the emotion or the request, give a prompt response. This way they will feel the power of speech and communication; they will understand where they stand in this communication.
9. Label what occurs
In communication disorders, it is better when the child hears the specific feeling or behavior they are expressing. For example, if they are going to the fridge, say “you are hungry”; this way they will know their feeling is said this way. This should be done consistently and naturally. Try to incorporate this facilitated communication into daily life. When you see them happy, say “I see that you are happy”. They will match the expression and the appropriate speech. This will encourage them to speak. You can support this speech therapy strategy with pictures as well, like showing expression pictures and naming them.
10. Use technological aids and visual support
The help of technology is undeniable at this age. Assistive technologies and picture exchange do more than taking the place of speaking in spectrum disorders. They make the basis of its development. With visual supports and picture exchange, children can state their requests and thoughts through the devices and applications. Otsimo is a great assistant for your child’s speech and communication development. With AAC game on the app, your child can learn to express her/himself with visual aids.
Consult your therapist about using and choosing the appropriate speech therapy strategy listed here. By working together, it is possible that your child learns to talk and you can help them to find his/her voice.
- Autism Speaks: https://www.autismspeaks.org/blog/2013/03/19/seven-ways-help-your-nonverbal-child-speak
- Pediatrics, April 2013: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/131/4/e1128
- Friendship Circle: http://www.friendshipcircle.org/blog/2015/04/21/5-ways-to-encourage-communication-with-a-non-verbal-child-diagnosed-with-autism/