Communication skills are a major developmental concern for children on the Autism Spectrum. Communication has no prerequisites. Communication involves at least two people whose behavior influences each other. It is important to feed language to your child or build communication with your child even if they do not talk or respond to your verbal language. Building communication needs to be done in a multi-faceted approach.
Build Eye Contact to improve communication
• Be on the child’s level when talking with them.
• Build joint attention by trying to focus on the same object or toy.
Build turn taking skills which leads to conversation
• Use turn- taking with balls and toy cars. Play with the toy going back and forth.
• Add in conversational turn-taking even if the child does not respond verbally.
• Expect a response and accept any attempt (verbal or gestures). This can be done by offering choice of toys or objects
• Allowing wait time for response and then responding to any type of utterance even if it is not intelligible.
• Model and physically prompt gestures of “Hi, Bye, Yes, and No”
Build verbal communication and language skills
• Include self talk when you are playing with the child. Use short simple sentences to state what you are doing. “Daddy is rolling the ball.” “Daddy set the cup on the table.”
• Use parallel talk when playing with your child – such as using simple sentences to describe what the child is doing. “Joe has a truck.” “The truck went under the chair.”
• Reinforce attempts to use verbal communication. “I like your talking” “ Mama is happy when you talk”
• Repeat and restate simple utterances a child makes. Change one-word utterances to three words, such as “cookie” to “I want a cookie.”
• Model language with simple short sentences. Use a calm tone of voice.
• Label objects and build vocabulary. Use visuals of pictures or objects. Some children may learn to read symbols before they talk.
o Ask simple questions and open-ended questions. “What is that?”
o Include repetitive music and songs in their day. They may learn to anticipate a favorite line.
Enrich your child’s environment with language, speech, and communication throughout the day to help them build the connections for conversation and the ability to express their wants and needs.