One of the key characteristics of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder is a marked difficulty communicating with others. Because of this difficulty communicating a common problem for parents and others who work with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder is simply being able to carry on a basic conversation. Children with Autism may have difficulty developing language skills and understanding others; they may also have difficulty understanding or expressing non-verbal clues such as eye contact, body posture, facial expressions, hand gestures etc.
Why do Children Have a Hard Time Communicating?
According to scientists, children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) have non-typically developing brains. This can be traced to a few sources in the brain, where synapses and matter are not typically developing; one such place in the brain is known as the superior temporal sulcus (STS). “The STS is attuned to socially meaningful stimuli, such as a person’s tone of voice, facial expression or body movements. By capturing such information, it plays a role in perceiving another person’s thoughts and feelings and predicting their actions” (Spectrum). In individuals who have ASD, the STS is not typically developed. This means that the area of the brain responsible for being able to perceive and understand social cues, is not typically developed. This can lead to problems reading people’s emotions, understanding someone’s actions, and even difficulty understanding speech.
According to recent studies approximately 40% of children diagnosed with ASD do not verbally communicate at all (CDC). Don’t be discouraged though! “Researchers have published hopeful findings that, even after age 4, many nonverbal children with autism eventually develop language” (Autism Speaks).
How to Increase Verbal Communication at Home
Many parents and ABA professionals have shared their tips and tricks to help increase the amount of verbal communication a child is willing to participate in. One mother shared her personal journey with her daughter language development in an online blog post, which you can find here. Another ABA therapy group published a YouTube video that demonstrates their helpful tips, which you can find here. Another research scientists in the ASD field, published an article on her method of increasing communication. This method was called the ‘My Communication’ method which can be found here. But if you want to look no further, we have created a list of our own helpful tips and tricks. Through our own experiences, and the experiences of others, we have compiled the best and most commonly used verbal communication tips that we can find.
- Use Mouth Exercises: At a young age you can start the process or mouth exercises. These exercises help children learn to use their mouth muscles and stimulate the same nerves as verbal communication. Blowing bubbles with your mouth or opening and closing it and having them imitate you is a perfect way to get their mouths moving.
- Imitate Them: By imitating your child, you are opening up for them to imitate you as well. When your child is playing do exactly what they do while trying to make eye contact and having them focus on you. Say your child is playing with a car and they roll the car on the ground, you do the same. If your child crashes the car, you do the same. When they do something destructive however, like throwing the car across the room, do not imitate it.
- Narrate Everything: By narrating everything that your child does, this helps to form the connection from the visual stimulus to the audio stimulus. If they are playing with a toy car and they roll it, say ‘roll’ or ‘roll car’. This helps them to form connections between items and speech.
- Identify Objects: Identifying objects of importance again allows the connection between object and speech. By holding and object they want in your hand and pointing to it and stating its name loudly and clearly before handing it to them, the child will begin to make the connection.
- Leave Space for them to Speak: Similarly, if you have the object that they want in your hand, point to it and leave a few seconds for them to say the name before you say the name of it. This leaves a time period and an expectation for the child to speak. You can also do this while you are asking questions.
- Ask Questions: When you are preparing food or choosing a specific thing, ask a question and wait for them to respond. For example, if you are having breakfast ask the child if they would like milk or juice. Hold both objects up, identify each of them, and leave space for them to reply.
- Look for NonVerbal Cues: While we are trying to encourage verbal speech nonverbal clues can often be very helpful as well. If your child answers a question by pointing to the object they desire, this demonstrates that they are understanding the question. If we know they understand the question than we can further encourage them to verbally speak.
- Speak Ahead: Oftentimes verbal communication will begin with monosyllabic words such as ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘ok’ etc. To ensure that you are furthering your child’s speech production, encourage them to use more than one syllable by speaking with more than one syllable. Every child has a different starting point when it comes to communication. If your child is not speaking at all, the goal is to have them speak in one syllable words. If they are speaking in one syllable words, the goal is for them to use two syllables, and so on and so forth.
- Lastly, Make Sure They Have the Proper Tools: Some children may not be able to produce speech because they cannot hear. Other-times children have difficulty seeing, which can slow speech production as well. Be sure that you speak to your doctor and your ABA therapist to ensure that your child has everything they need to succeed.
Because every child is different, and because every child starts off at a different level of speech, it is important for you to evaluate where your child stands. By speaking to and setting up appointments with an ABA therapist, your child is sure to get the best help that they can. At Alliance ABA, we know that every child is unique and has their own unique sets of challenges and strengths, by setting up a program tailored to you and your child, we ensure that you get the most out of every session. We want to set you and your child up for success, and in order to do that you need someone who will spend the time and really get to know you and your situation.
When it comes to verbal communication, we know how difficult and draining it can become to do so much with so few results. We want to ensure that you are getting the results that you want. We are able to provide you with personalized at-home tools, to get you on the right track.
Please contact us at Alliance ABA therapy today to begin your journey to a happier and healthier life.
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