The ability to communicate is one of the most important skills to have, and one of the skills that most of us take for granted. With the proper communication and language skills we are able to connect with others, build relationships, share ideas and let others know what you want and how you feel.
For children diagnosed with autism, communication skills are formed differently than for most others. Many seem distracted and first words tend to be delayed. Depending on the verbal ability of the child, there are a variety of ways to help increase communication and language skills. Here are several ways to help your child with autism increase language and communication skills:
- Find the time to communicate with your child – Don’t allow electronics, games and television to occupy a majority of your child’s time. Spend time with them, ask them about their day, listen to them when they talk to you and ask questions, read books to them and (if they are able to read), let them read to you. All of these opportunities to communicate will help increase your child’s language and communication skills.
- Be supportive of your child – Always make your child feel comfortable and confident. Encourage them to use their words and try not to be too critical of their mistakes. Use situations where they make mistakes as a learning experience. Help them understand what they are doing wrong in a very calm and helpful way. Try your best not to be judgmental or condescending as this will have a tendency to hurt your child’s feelings and push them to regress instead of advance their skills.
- Be a Role Model to your child – Your child learns from examples. Make sure that when your child is around you, you speak to them and others in complete sentences, correct grammar, and articulate your words clearly. When children constantly hear the proper use of words and sentences they learn how they should sound when they speak.
- Use Reinforcers – Find and create situations that promote language in the home. Use favorite items, toys, games, even food, to motivate your child to use their words properly. Make sure these items are only available when working with your child on language and communication building skills.
- Provide your child with choices – Use choices as a way to get your child to communicate with you. By giving them a choice of what they want to do, or what items they want to have, you open up the lines of communication and give them the opportunity to speak to you. By allowing them to choose between two things they like, you are also able to start a conversation about why they selected one item over the other.
- Read stories to your child – This is an excellent way to incorporate language into a fun activity. Take this time to ask your child about the pictures in the book you are reading. Ask them about their favorite character and what they like best about the story. It is also a great idea to review the story once you have completed reading it. Having your child tell you about what you just read is a great way to finish a language and communication activity.
- Non-Verbal Children – For parents of children who are non-verbal, try not to pay attention to your child when he/she points and grunts, or tantrums and be sure to explain that you don’t understand what they want even when you do, so that they are more motivated to try using their words. Also remember to model an appropriate way to say words they have trouble with, and to model the appropriate way to make requests for what they want. Little tricks like these will help most non-verbal children start communicating.
Most of all, remember to be patient with your child and do your best to set a good example for them by communicating clearly and effectively. When your child sees that he/she can communicate their wants/needs effectively, it will give them added confidence that will help them continue to strive to improve their language development.
Niki Moore, Behavioral Therapist , Beautiful Minds Center
We are very proud to share with your our first ever SHINING STAR. We would like to honor Niki Moore for her hard work and dedication to Beautiful Minds Center. Niki joined the Beautiful Minds Center team in 2014 as a Behavioral Therapist and is inspired by the work she currently does with our patients. She particular enjoys watching the children and families she works with grow and learn new skills through the interventions and behaviors she incorporates into their sessions. Her favorite part of working with Beautiful Minds Center is the opportunity to make lasting changes to the family unit. She also enjoys working with the Izralson sisters and has learned a lot from the multidisciplinary approach that serves the Beautiful Minds Center patients well.
Niki’s greatest accomplishment has been reducing violent and aggressive behavior in children who struggle with tantrums and rigidity. She feels that aggressive behavior in the home is detrimental to the child and being able to relieve those symptoms with effective strategies allows for a less stressful family environment. Although at times she finds maladaptive behaviors to be a difficult aspect of her work, she contributes staying emotionally and physically grounded to being able to create a space where she can be a model for good behavior. In order to stay grounded Niki takes care of herself. She says “Do not allow the business of life or feelings of guilt to distract you from giving yourself a break. Advocate for yourself. Do something to treat your senses every day.”
When asked how she has seen her work change people’s lives for the better, Niki stated that the most rewarding thing is to see her patient’s start to initiate and engage in interactive play with their peers. She feels extremely proud when one of her patients walks up to a peer and asks them to play.
Beautiful Minds Center would like to thank Niki Moore for her hard work and dedication. Your contributions are changing the lives of our clients and have given them the tools needed to grow, learn and progress.
Going out with a child that has been diagnosed with autism can be overwhelming for the child and the parent. The child may not feel comfortable in their environment and that may cause them to panic or have a tantrum and their parents are constantly worried about what they will do if their child breaks down in public. Outings don’t have to be scary or cause stress. In fact with the right preparation, outings can be a lot of fun. Here are some tips on what you can do to decrease the level of anxiety in your child when planning an outing.
- Let them know what to expect – Setting expectations for your child is a great way to minimize stress and increase awareness of what is happening around them. Start off by letting your child know where you are going and give them visuals so they can better understand what to expect to see when they get there. Take pictures of the places you visit frequently like the park, your favorite restaurant, the mall, your family and friend’s homes etc. Providing this type of support will allow your child to manage outings more successfully.
- Involve your child in planning the day – Often parents drag their children with them on errand after errand without allowing them to participate in activities their kids find entertaining. Start your day by letting your child know what you need to do, but don’t forget to allow them to pick a few activities they want to do as well. This way you can get your errands done and your children will be happy because they can (A) be part of the planning process and (B) participate in some fun activities that they enjoy.
- What happens if things don’t go as planned – It is important to understand that at times things won’t go exactly as planned. Sometimes your plans will change, other times you will experience delays…It is also important to let your child know if there are changes made to your plans and to help them understand that delays and changes tend to happen. It is always good to have a back-up activity that your child will enjoy in case something like this occurs during your day out.
- Ask for assistance/Bring an activity with you– Your child is less likely to break the rules if they are busy. When you are shopping, have them help you pick things out (such as groceries, gifts, clothes etc.)If you are looking for something specific, let them know what it is and have them help you find it. Bring reinforcers, games and toys that they enjoy playing with along with you so that you can distract them or keep them occupied if they start to get fussy. Keeping them occupied and keeping them focused on something decreases boredom and allows for a parent to have additional tome to complete an errand.
- GREAT JOB is something all children like to hear – Don’t forget to praise your child for their good behavior. Telling your child they are doing a great job listening, following directions, being kind to others etc. shows them that their good behavior gets rewarded.
Whatever it is that you decide to do with your children, make sure they know what to expect and that they understand that sometimes things change. Involve them in your activities and reward them for good behavior. Most of all learn to be consistent with them so they know that you mean what you say and do what you say. Teaching your child to trust your word is important to a successful day out with your child.