The way we communicate is affected by a number of influencing factors. If we think about children with Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD) being 90% visual and 10% auditory then we need to develop strategies and approaches to enhance spontaneous communication opportunities for the young child. If adults reduce the amount of language they use in the first instance, they will create an improved environment for communication.
Setting up communication experiences
Throughout the day there are many opportunities for functional and playful communication. Using these situations will make communication experiences authentic, here are some suggestions:
- Everyday activities: ‘cereal first, then toast’ you have introduced two items and a sequence
- Use a minimal speech approach; ‘shoes on’
- Give a clear message to your child using a gesture when it is their turn to communicate: by holding two pieces of fruit and moving them forward toward your child while naming them and look at the child and wait for the response. The response could be by pointing, grasping, looking at the fruit or naming the fruit
- Use play to begin vocabulary development: ‘My nose, Sally’s nose’ use pointing and touching, first you may need to guide your child’s hand to act out the play Continue for the rest of the body parts as opportunities arise
- Use play to engage your child in non-verbal interaction: building blocks, taking turns, copying your child’s actions
- When your child points to something give it a name: child points to a ball, just say ‘ball’ when child begins to label ball, bring in a further descriptor ‘blue ball’
- Begin to label your child’s emotions: ‘happy face’ when the child is smiling
These experiences will build your child’s communication experiences regardless of whether they are verbal or non-verbal and will assist them to develop their own communication system that is effective for them. If your child has a further diagnosis of a learning difficulty such as an Intellectual Disability(ID) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD) then further explicit teaching of skills maybe be required. Use everyday activities such as getting dressed, cleaning teeth etc. to develop not only skills of independence but for communication purposes.