Communication and socialization are two of the core challenges for individuals with autism. Many different methods can be used to help individuals with autism develop more effective communication and social skills.
A picture exchange communication system begins with teaching a student to exchange a picture of a desired item with a “teacher” who immediately honors the request, eventually leading to independent communication.
Functional communication training involves identifying what the individual is trying to communicate when using the challenging behavior (for example, hitting, screaming, taking toys away from others) and then teaching an appropriate behavior that will serve the same purpose for the individual. For example, adults might teach a child who hits his peers when he needs or wants something to instead use his words, a picture card or an augmentative speech device to ask his friends for help.
Augmentative and alternative communication uses symbols, aids, technology, strategies and techniques to enhance communication. This could include picture exchange communication (PECS), visual schedules using picture communication symbols (PCS) and speech-generating devices.
Speech-generating devices are electronic communication devices that produce spoken language and “speak” for a person who is otherwise unable to talk.
Pragmatic language is the ability to use language in social contexts (knowing what to say, how to say it, and when to say it). This is an area of difficulty for individuals with autism. With direct, quality instruction, individuals with autism can increase their skills in using language appropriately in social situations.
Contact Easterseals for more information on speech-language pathology for individuals with autism.