Here is How You Can Teach Communication Skills to Children with Autism

Autism affects a child’s communication skills extensively. This neuro-developmental disorder makes it difficult for the child to use verbal and non-verbal communication cues to express themselves or respond to questions. It is important for such children to be educated and trained by using their dormant communication abilities to improve their social,behavioural and peer-interaction skills effectively.

What are the communication problems seen inchildren with Autism?

There are several types of communication problems in children with Autism. From failing to learn the language to an inability to interact with others, children with Autism show varying degrees of communication disabilities.

Let us understand some common verbal and non-verbal communication problems in children with Autism:

Slow learning of language and speech

Research shows that over 40% of children affected with Autism tend never to speak at all. There is asignificant delay or slow learning of speech and language. Due to the abnormal functioning of the parts of the brain which control communication, the child finds it difficult to learn a language. Even if the child learns the language, their vocabulary remains very restricted.

Non-verbal cues are said to be more vital for effective communication than the verbal talks. The body language also helps us to understandthe true aim of expressing the opinion or suggestion by another person. A child affected with Autism is unable to identify and recognisenon-verbal cues, such as facial expressions, body language, hand gestures, etc. and hence, finds it impossible to respond to even simple questions.

Other communication problems faced by children with Autism

Due to the inability to learn thelanguage and improve vocabulary, a child affected with autism finds it difficult to start and maintain a conversation. The child is also likely to be obsessed with a particular word or phrase which they keep repeating.

 

How to teach communication skills to children with Autism?

It is important that the child affected with Autism should learn the basic language and speech to communicate their needs and moods effectively. There are certain factors that help in thebetterteaching of communication skills to children with Autism, such as:

  • Improving non-verbal communication skills
  • Using simple language
  • Giving them ample response time
  • Using words and phrases which interest the child
  • Imitating the child’s speech pattern
  • Encouraging social interaction
  • Using visual and other assistive devices

These tips will be extremely helpful in teaching communication skills to children with Autism and helping them lead a better social life.

How effective is Speech Therapy for Autism?

Autism affects the ability of the child and restricts him/her from leading a normal life. Damage to certain parts of the brain results in several disabling symptoms to develop in a child affected with Autism. The most prominent problem would be communicating with the child suffering from an inability with long-lasting complications.

Difference between ‘Language and Speech’

When we think of the ability to ‘speak’, we often construe it to mean the ability to ‘verbalize.’ However, the ability to learn the language is more important than to learn how to verbalize it.

Ideally, the communication process should be effective in expressing one’s ideas, opinions and expressions through a meaningful way; wherein, the other person involved in the communication process should be able to understand, then process and respond in a similar manner.

What kind of speech disorders are seen in Autism?

To understand the definition of ‘speech,’ it is sufficient to understand that the verbal communication is made of:

  • Articulation –This indicates the ability to produce comprehensible sounds.
  • Voice – This is the sound which is produced by the speech box (vocal cords) of the child.
  • Fluency – This indicates the clarity and smoothness with which the child talks.

How to identify speech disorders in children with Autism?

It is true that each child takes a different amount of time to learn how to speak and understand the language, and at the same time,it is also easy to identify when the child is actually facing problems with speech due to Autism.

These are the signs and symptoms of speech disorder in children due to Autism:

  • Not fluent – The child stutters and repeats sounds, words or phrases despite being over 4 years of age.
  • Using ‘fillers’ – Sounds that are used to fill the gap before articulating the next set of words, such as ‘ah’, ‘umm’, , are used excessively by children affected with Autism.
  • Articulation difficulties –The sounds made by the child are often distorted. The child will substitute or avoid the consonants altogether.
  • Vocal disorders – Throaty and harsh voice may also result in the child being unable to communicate. The child may experience an instant shift in the pitch of the voice. It can become too soft or too loud. Hyper or hypo nasality changes the tone and voice of the child extensively.

Due to these speech disorders, the child needs to undergo effective speech therapy for Autism which can help him/her to regain the communication skills and eventually improve the social interactions and behavioural skills as well. 

What are the benefits of Speech Therapy for Autism?

An expert speech/language therapist can help the children to regain effective communication skills in a short period of time. These are the essential techniques used in speech therapy for Autism:

Electronic talking devices – These devices are designed to help the children express themselves in a better way. Learning anew language and improving the vocabulary are the benefits of these devices.

Using visual aids – The child also finds it easier to communicate (initially) using signboards and other visual props to express themselves.

These skills are important for the child with autism to learn and to have normal communication skills and an ideal social interactive behaviour.