Communication for young children with ASD

There are a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration when we think about what communication entails. When we talk about children with ASD possibly being 90% visual and 10% auditory in their learning, then we need to develop strategies and approaches to ensure they have the opportunities to communicate in their individual way and ensure that they are not overwhelmed by the increased auditory stimulation of the classroom.


Typically by school age children will:

  • Understand left and right
  • Be able to follow a three part instruction eg ‘get your pencil, write your name at the top of the page.’
  • Have the ability to listen to information for at least 15 minutes
  • Tell others who they are eg. can say their first and last name, their age
  • Have a vocabulary of at least 100 recognisable words
  • Use a simple sentence eg. ‘I went on a holiday to the beach’
  • Have an emerging ability to classify things eg. Cats and dogs are animals, apples and oranges are fruit
  • Can write simple words eg. cat, dog and then advances to writing sentences and then essays.

To assist your child to begin to develop these skills the following strategies can be used during everyday experiences to help learning;

  • At the dinner table teach your child to set the table and that the fork is on the left and the spoon is on the right, mum is sitting on the left and dad is on the right etc.
  • For following instructions begin with one and then build on the number over time eg. Put your bag on the table, take your lunch box out, put your lunch box on the bench
  • Have a regular play time each day, go outside and have your child listen for sounds, make a story about the sounds- build their listening skills over time to reach 15 minutes and beyond
  • Expose your child to their name by getting them to help you to write it and label things eg. their drawings, labels for books
  • Reading to and with your child, pointing to words and getting them to imitate you, to say the words
  • Practicing handwriting by writing about a holiday to the beach or a letter to grandma, use a mindmap to get things started

There are many naturally occurring opportunities during the day for you to help your child develop these communication milestones. If you are aware that your child will be overwhelmed and possibly become anxious at primary school due to too much auditory information, then speak with the teacher in regard to strategies that can be put in place to help your child. If it has also been identified that your child has a learning disability such as an Intellectual Disability(ID) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD) then further strategies alongside those already mentioned will need to be put into place as well. The following are a few strategies that you could discuss with the teacher:

  • Identify a quieter space within the room that your child can access when needed
  • Let the teacher know that your child responds best to less talking, therefore give short verbal directions
  • Let the teacher know that your child responds best to visual information possibly through a visual schedule, checklist of tasks
  • Advise the teacher that your child needs ‘lead in time’ when there is going to be a change of routine or activity. They can communicate this by the visual schedule or verbally ‘in 2 minutes we will stop this activity’(if necessary set a timer for this)

The communication experiences that you provide prior and during the primary years of schooling will help your child in their ability to understand the world more fully. By sharing strategies with the teacher you will enable your child to access the curriculum more fully.

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