Let’s talk about communication
There are many forms of communication (e.g., verbal, nonverbal, etc.) that each one of us use to display our everyday wants and needs. Children with autism may find it more difficult to communicate their wants and needs with us, therefore, finding the best form of communication, that will enable them to do this as easily as possible, will help the key to gain the independence they will need for their future. This article focuses on how to increase and shape vocal communication. If you have a child who is beginning to develop their speech and vocal behaviour, here are some key pointers to consider:
Motivation is key! When setting up opportunities to communicate with your child, gathering all the activities/toys/edibles your child loves will give you the best outcome! If you create opportunities where your child is coming to you to gain access to their favourite things, rather than your child having constant free access, you will create more opportunities for them to talk to you and the need to vocally ask for things they want more frequently.
Starting to talk can be difficult, therefore even if your child might have a lot of sounds and words, prompting them to use the correct words to request for things they want will allow them to learn less errors thus have less room for frustration in the future. For instance, when a child is reaching for orange and they begin to say ‘bubble’, help your child by prompting them to copy you saying the word “orange’”, and have your child echo it back to you so they can then gain access to the orange. Continue to do this when needed so that the child is beginning to learn the correct word that corresponds to the object.
While it can be exciting that we see our children make sounds and words for the first time, keeping language simple and straight to the point will yield for better results. When talking for the first time, words can get confusing, therefore we suggest to first use just the noun of that object to request for. For example, if your child is reaching for a biscuit, we can prompt them to say the word “biscuit” each and time they want some more biscuit. We will try to avoid prompting them for words like, ‘more’, ‘eat’, and ‘all done’, etc. as these can be over generalised (non-specific), and the focus at this stage should be to increase your child’s vocabulary, rather than limiting it to one word that would gain them access to multiple items and activities.
Remember to have fun! Using opportunities like play interaction can also be a huge benefit for encouraging your child to talk. M.M Nofsinger (2003) expressed how focusing on back-and-forth interactions when playing and gaining your child’s attention can produce increased opportunities for social interactions and joint attention, which in return allows for more opportunities for them to talk to you.
Putting it altogether
In conclusion, supporting your child to talk wherever and whenever possible is always the goal when developing communication. By utilising the things your child finds most motivating, you will allow your child to gain more opportunities to work on their language and vocally request for them throughout the day. Helping them talk by prompting their language will also give them the correct words for certain items/activities, thus increasing their chances of independently requesting for things they want when those items are out of sight (spontaneous). Continue working on simple language by only stating the noun or action of the item or activity they are playing with or wanting from you, to increase their vocabulary. Incorporating these opportunities in every day play will not only keep learning fun for your child but will help form a deeper connection for you and your child by increasing a more positive social interaction with one another.
Mary M Nofsinger. (2003). Embracing Play: Teaching Your Child with Autism/Talk to Me: A Documentary Film About Children with Autism [Review of Embracing Play: Teaching Your Child with Autism/Talk to Me: A Documentary Film About Children with Autism]. Library Journal, 128(18), 137–. MSI Information Services.