This is the first in a bi-monthly series written by voices within the autism community that we want to amplify. Jade Page is a UK-based mom to two kids with autism. This is her story about finding the right resources to support her kids with communication.
This is the first in a bi-monthly series written by voices within the autism community that we want to amplify. Jade Page is a UK-based mom to two kids with autism. She does an incredible job of collecting resources on supporting children and families impacted by autism, as well as helping other parents navigate the paperwork associated with accessing autism support in the UK. Check out Jade at The Autism Page and on Facebook, Twitter and Insta.
Speech, language and communication are key areas for most autistic children. For both my children, the first clear sign that they were different was delayed speech and language. Though the particular challenges vary, most autistic people do have difficulty with language and/or communication. It’s common that both using and understanding communication is challenging for autistic children.
Children with autism often struggle to understand communication. Some reasons for this can be because:
Often, communicating is also a challenge for children with autism. Some qualities that often define these communication challenges are:
Children need to develop attention to learn and communicate. Is your child’s attention fleeting, rigid or single channeled? I was more focused on the fact that my children were not speaking than their general lack of attention. It had to be pointed out to me that if we didn’t work on attention first, we would continue to struggle with communication. Attention difficulties can mean that your kids:
To work on attention you need to find strategies that are exciting and motivating to your child. It can be hard to understand why particular things are motivating, this post on reinforcers and motivating toys gives some helpful ideas. But in general, try to be the most exciting thing in the room. Some ways to do this are to: strategically reduce other distractions, use topics of interest to your child, and employ visual tools. A great way to support attention development is using Attention Autism. This is a therapy designed for autistic children and is a great way to work on attention.
There are tons of different ways to help support your child’s speech and communication development. Different strategies work for different kids and families, but below I outline some areas that many parents find key to addressing communication challenges.
SPEAK TO BE UNDERSTOOD
USE VISUAL AIDS
READING & COMMUNICATION
AUGMENTATIVE AND ALTERNATIVE COMMUNICATION (AAC)
Often challenging behaviour like lashing out, screaming, crying, biting and many others come down to communication issues. If a child has sensory processing issues but is unable to communicate, it can be very distressing and confusing for the child and those around them. Equally, being unable to communicate one’s emotions and/or needs can be very challenging. Working out the cause of the challenging behaviour is usually a key and I have a post on using the star method to help identify reasons for challenging behaviour. You may also want to try using rewards to encourage your child.
If autism impacts your family, you’ll likely spend a fair bit of time working on communication. There are lots of therapies that can be used to support speech development such as Intensive Interaction. While there’s no on-size-fits-all strategy for people with autism who have challenges communicating there are LOTS of different tools - I hope this article helped point you in the direction of some that might work for you!