If your child was recently diagnosed with autism, you’ve probably struggled to communicate for a while. This is one of the biggest obstacles for parents of autistic children. It may take time to learn a form of communication that works for your child, but there are some steps you can take to speed up that process. Here are some tips for how to communicate with an autistic child.
Nonverbal Does Not Mean Unresponsive
Some people avoid talking to nonverbal children altogether because they rarely speak back. When they do, it may not be in direct response to the previous statement. However, children with autism often communicate without spoken language. They create their own form of sign language, where certain gestures or eye movements indicate how they feel, what they want, etc. If you take the time to learn this language and adapt it, you will be much more satisfied with your communication efforts.
Use Your Body When You Speak
Nonverbal communication relies heavily on body language. By using gestures while you speak, you can begin associating words with movements. When your child needs to speak to you, he can use those pre-defined movements to convey his desires directly. Something as simple as nodding your head up and down for yes, side to side for no will create a baseline of communication that you can build on.
Speak in Small Phrases
Autistic children cannot always understand long sentences. They may respond better to simple words, phrases, and gestures. Instead of asking your child, “Would you like to eat an apple?” just say “Eat apple?”
The golden rule for this is to use one more word than your child uses. If your child normally uses one word to describe something, use two. Apple – Eat apple. If your child is completely nonverbal, use one word as often as possible. If your child is high-functioning with a decent flow of communication, focus on concise sentences that are easy to follow.
Narrate Your Child’s Movements
As your child plays, eats, or does any physical activity, narrate his or her actions. This establishes a connection between words and movements, which will make it easier for your child to “speak” to you in the future. Allow your child to explore his or her interest. If your child is fixated on puzzles, use words to describe the pictures on the puzzle pieces. It is easier to learn when you feel excited about the subject matter. Children with autism are no different.
Find What Works for Your Child through Autism Counseling
Every child is different, and every autism diagnosis is different. The best way to learn how to communicate with nonverbal children is through autism counseling. While the primary focus of autism treatment is on the child, the program also helps parents better understand their children’s needs. You may have individual counseling sessions as a parent in addition to your family counseling sessions. Your autism counselor will give you new ideas to talk to your child and improve his or her life as a whole.
For more information about autism counseling, contact Perspectives Counseling Centers. We have multiple locations in Southeast Michigan, and all of them offer specialized autism treatment programs.