Autism and communication

Autism and Communication Strategies

Communicating and using language in interaction with other people can be challenging for many children with Autism. They can find it hard to relate to other people. They may be slower to develop language, have no language at all or have difficulties in understanding or using spoken language. The
ability of children with ASD to communicate and use language depends on their intellectual and social development.

Communication Difficulties

Communication skills are affected in children with autism, difficulties vary obviously. Some children may have a good basic language skill set, but have difficulty initiating or sustaining conversation, such as not giving others the opportunity to respond. Other children may experience delays or regression in language development. Some remain mute or will use language in unusual ways, such as repeating a phase, or parroting what they hear (echolalia). Body language is also hard to read in children with
ASD. Facial expressions, tone of voice and gestures often do not match verbal content and emotions. Some of the time, children with ASD have issues expressing what they want and need, they may even
appear deaf, not responding to their names or to prompts & attempts at conversation.

Children with ASD often don’t understand that communication is a two-way process that uses eye contact, facial expressions and gestures as well as words. It is a good idea to keep this information in mind when helping teach your child to develop their language skills.

Some children with ASD have trouble knowing how to use language to communicate with other people. They might communicate mostly to ask for something or to protest about something rather than for social reasons, or getting to know someone.
How well a child with ASD communicates is essential for other areas of development, like learning and behaviour.

The reasons these children don’t understand is complicated as there is more than one reason. One reason is that communication usually happens very quickly. Forms of communication such as speech, manual signs and gestures are transient, they remain present only for a short period of time and then disappear. Most of these children are not able to process this information as quickly as is necessary to handle many communication situations.
Patterns of language use and behaviors often found in children with ASD

  • Repetitive and rigid language
  • Narrow interests and exceptional abilities
  • Uneven language development
  • Poor nonverbal conversation skills

How Children with ASD communicate

A lot of the time, children on the spectrum don’t know how to communicate in usual ways. They don’t seem to know how to use language, or how to use language in the same way as a typically developing child would. They can sometimes have an unusual or unconventional use of language, this is often when echolalia might come in use, these children mimic words or phases without meaning or in an unusual tine of voice. They might repeat someone’s words straight away, or they might also repeat
what they have seen on TV or a device, You Tube or video’s as well as in real life. They sometimes even take on different accents. Children that use echolalia will often say Do you want a lolly?, when they actually want one themselves. This is because, when the child heard this question before they
got a lolly! Over time, these children can build on these beginnings and learn to use language in ways that people can understand.

Non Verbal Communication

These ways of communicating may include:

  • Physically manipulating a person or object. For example, taking a person’s hand or pointing to something he or she wants, squeeling or pushing towards something they want.
  • Pointing, showing and shifting gaze. For example the child looks at or points to something wanted & then shifts the gaze to the person in company, letting them know tey want the object.
  • Using objects – for example, the hands an object to another person to communicate.

Many children with ASD behave undesirably sometimes. This behaviour is often related to communication and frustration. For example, tantrums, self-harming behaviour and aggression towards others might be a way of telling you, they are unhappy, confused, frightened, or just that they need something.

How are language and speech problems of ASD treated?

Children with ASD, after being referred to a pediatrician, usually have a long list of specialists to help them. Children who have language development issues will have a speech pathologist on board their team ,who will perform a comprehensive evaluation of the child’s ability to communicate, and will design an appropriate treatment program. The speech pathologist will usually make a referral for a hearing test to make sure the child’s hearing is normal, and eliminate this being a problem.
Most children with ASD respond well to highly structured, specialized programs. As communication is a necessary daily life skill, it is important for family members to become involved in the treatment
program. To that it becomes part of the child’s daily life. To increase a child’s chance of reaching their best realistic goal, it is best to pay attention to their language development early on. Skills including
making eye contact, gestures, body movement, imitation, babbling and other vocalizationsto help
them communicate.

Make it Easier to understand…

Make communication more visual. A lot of children with ASD understand what they see better than what they hear. Visual tools provide a non-transient foundation for more effective communication.
Visual tools are fantastic tools to give information when not able to ask, particularly for gaining
positive participation and for avoiding behaviour problems.

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