Autism and Communication

Children who are on the high functioning end of the spectrum only have communication problems when it comes to interacting with their peers. In most cases, social stories, stories that set up a scenario of what could or might happen and then asking the child what they think the proper response would be, helps them get past these little bumps with their peers. They rarely need any other form of communication or communication device during their lifetimes, although they might have started out learning sign language if there was a speech delay.

That brings us to the other side of the spectrum, where the children speak very little or not at all. All children with autism are started out with learning some basic signs. Yes, no, please, thank you, bathroom, drink, and eat are the most common. In teaching nonverbal children these signs, they are at least able to communicate their most basic needs and in a way that doesn’t remind us of the dining room scene from the Helen Keller movie, The Miracle Worker. Language skills are continuously drilled to help them begin to vocalize while the signs are being used. If a child can laugh or scream, they have vocal chords and therapists and teachers will make every effort to help make it happen. Parents have to be on board, and do their part at home, because the child needs to know that this expectation of speech is universal.

Communication Devices For Autism

As far as devices are concerned, up until the use of tablet computers was allowed in schools, all special needs teachers had were communication books that had several laminated squares with pictures and words on them and Velcro on the backs. These communication books, called Picture Exchange Communication System, or PECS, has a large library of labeled pictures that help children choose their words. As long as their receptive language skills are very good, PECS is a standard special needs communication tool.

A lot more devices have been created and added, but right now tablet computers have taken a foothold in the special needs departments as a means of communication for most non-verbal students. There are over fifty apps alone that parents can download to help their children communicate better, and it seems to work quite well given that these children won’t talk face to face with anyone, but will use devices to speak for them. Non-verbal children have gained verbal skills because of tablet computers for the simple reason that they are afraid to make eye contact with people but don’t have to make any person to person contact with the tablet.

Several other devices that allow adults to record words that are activated by the child’s touch can help them learn to speak as well. Hearing familiar voices come from these push button squares or circles encourages them to continue pushing them. At first, this is a really good thing, until the children just keep pushing them because they like the sound of Mom’s or Dad’s voice, and then it gets a little repetitious. If the non-verbal child is taught how to use the pre-recorded communication devices correctly, the repetition goes away and they begin to use them to actually communicate.

There are many, many other means of communication parents can use with their nonverbal children who have autism. Looking at websites that offer communication devices or consulting with a speech therapist will put them on the right path.

Most Related Concerns:

1. What are the different assistive technology devices?
2. Picture Exchange Communication system (PECS) For Autism
3. What behaviors should you expect if you suspect your child has autism?
4. How to manage violent bad behavior in children with autism?
5. Why should you hire a babysitter for your special need child?

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