Improving communication skills in children with autism

 I am not an SLP but these are the strategies I learnt raising my son who is on the spectrum. One of the hallmarks of autism is impairment in social and communication skills!!

Communication is very important for all of us but with children with autism, it is delayed or slow. Many children in the spectrum are nonverbal. They use different modalities to communicate but never develop verbal speech or remain nonverbal.

Our son Aarian started babbling around 18 months of age but never developed verbal speech and became silent. This is when he got an Autism diagnosis. After the diagnosis he started vocalizing however, there were no words or word approximations that were noted.

He would imitate some sounds. He would take our hand and lead us to what he wanted, point to things he wanted, he did not engage in any play activities and if he did he only did solitary play. It was difficult to engage him and needed constant adult supervision which was very tiring for us.

In the beginning, we attended More than words and PECS workshops to help Aarian communicate. We were given some strategies to use at home to develop his communication skills.

He used to vocalize on-demand within highly predictable routines which included familiar songs and counting activities. I was hearing new words every day. I had a running list of words on my refrigerator. It was very encouraging to see Aarian was slowly making progress in communication.

The first thing you do as parents are to get a referral to a good speech-language pathologist so you can put the right communication system in place. This will help to reduce frustration as kids are not able to communicate.

Most parents including us introduce our children to PECS to teach our children to communicate. Early on we put a referral for Aarian in school to get him a speech-generating device or AAC.

Communication skills are very important for all children to express their wants and needs. Some children might start repeating phrases if we don't put the right communication systems in place for children with autism they may engage in challenging behaviour as they are frustrated and can't communicate. As parents, you can help your child to communicate by implementing strategies every day.

I am going to share some strategies which helped our son to communicate. The first thing you do is if your child likes a toy out it away or outside their reach may be in a clear box within their view so they have to ask for it.

Get on the floor and play with your child. Sing nursery rhymes and counting songs. Make it into a predictable routine. Narrate to your child what you are doing throughout the day. 

What is PECS? It is a type of AAC that stands for Augmentative and Alternative communication which uses visual symbols to teach children with autism to communicate. we started our son with PECS around 3 years of age. Work with an SLP to teach your child to communicate.

More than words program is designed for parents of children ages 5 and under on the autism spectrum. It provides parents with tools and strategies to help their child’s communication, play and imitation skills.

Teach them to use PECS. Make pictures of snacks and toys your child likes and every time they want the snack or toy encourages them to use the picture and ask for it. Practice this throughout the day.

Do not give your child a whole bowl of any snack so they have to ask for more. Make a PECS binder and put all photos of their favourite foods, toys and snacks so they can use it to communicate. Create multiple opportunities for your child to communicate throughout the day.

Use simple language around your child. Reward your child for trying to communicate and make it a positive experience for them. Consistency is very important for our child to make progress. Make sure you practice these skills every day 

Comment and let me know if you use these strategies with your child or if you have any more comments and let me know.


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