Some children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder have difficulty in communicating verbally. As the parent, teacher or care-giver you may have an incredibly full day of communicating with your child, and we naturally develop ways of communicating which may sometimes eradicate the need for the child to extend their verbal skills. However, it’s important to make sure that the non-verbal child is stretched to develop verbal communications skills as much as possible. Non-verbal ASD kids are incredibly adept at compensating for their vocal silence, and very quickly develop communications systems including gesturing, signing, using objects, writing, pointing and vocalization. This means that it can be pretty straightforward to understand what your child is asking of you, and offer it, to the extent that you can pre-empt requirements without expecting the child to try to speak verbally. Because of this, experts agree that it’s important to share various techniques with your child to encourage verbal communication on an ongoing basis, so that the child doesn’t come to rely solely upon alternative means which may hinder verbal development. Doing Joint Activities Together Joint activities with you and your child are a fundamental cornerstone of communication development. By placing certain activities in to your daily routine, your child will become familiar with certain movements, activities and communications and develop their understanding of cause and effect (an essential element of verbal communication development). Daily rituals such as playing with simple toys, fixing drinks together, tickling and other fun activities are ideal to develop verbal skills, while fixing anticipatory behaviors, through a predictable, natural routine. Practicing Cause and Effect Reasoning Cause and effect reasoning is a great way of developing communication skills, by showing to the child that when they undertake one action, a reaction takes place. There are a wealth of tools available to promote this thought pattern, including responsive toys and games that respond following the press of a button, and the simple act of encouraging your child to take action (such as going to a specific room to fetch something). The parent or teacher can undertake continuous communication to support verbal development through this process, rewarding positive behaviors and encouraging children to see the links between actions and reactions. Delay responses to anticipated wants/needs Because parents and carers are usually great at understanding their non-verbal child, it can often be easy to pre-empt requirements and anticipate what they want throughout the day. However, small delays in meeting the needs of your child will support and encourage them to articulate their wishes more clearly. By waiting for your child to show what they want, it opens up new fields of communication and encourages them to show more clearly, through verbal or non-verbal means, what they want you to do. While it is natural to provide everything immediately, sometimes going against this instinct can be rewarding when your child begins to be more communicative to articulate their wishes. Visual Representation Systems Using visual representation systems such as photographs, images, drawings, written words and objects supports you and your child to communicate healthily and effectively. Images can be used to encourage links with real objects, and you can set up a highly effective system of representation to assist in getting needs to be expressed clearly, and understanding how to meet them with your child. Miniature objects such as spoons, cups or food items can be used to segue in to describing real items, supporting the cause/effect communication to be used effectively. PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) PECS is designed to support your child to communicate and interact, by giving a visual representation to another person. The PECS system has a range of levels, beginning with simple concrete concepts and going on to abstract ideas. The child can use PECS to exchange items when they are asking for something, and gradually develop in to more complex concepts which assist communication and encourage comments, vocalization and expression of desires.
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