ASD And Conversation Skills: How Parents Can Teach Their Child To Listen
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder often find themselves struggling with the aspect of conversation. We often come across parents complaining that their children are unable to control the conversation or do not feel the need to let the other person finish speaking, causing them to interrupt, repeatedly. Some even mention that their child simply jumps into the middle of a conversation to talk about irrelevant topics. It troubles these parents that they are unable to make their child understand the importance of listening and then responding.
If this sounds like anything you are currently going through, I’m sure reading this post will help you.
As a parent, you understand that children with ASD might face problems in communicating and engaging in appropriate social etiquettes. Therefore, it is the parent’s responsibility to steer their child in the right direction.
First, understand what your child wants. Ask what is troubling them and try to assess the problem. Make it a habit to talk to your child for at least an hour to find out how their day went, new things they’ve learnt, how they are getting on with friends, and other such everyday details. While these details may sound mundane, they play an important role in understanding the child’s behavior and being able to recognize anomalies, immediately. Keeping a tab on how your child behaves and feels on a day to day basis allows you to better understand or even expect sudden changes in their behavior.
Second, once you know exactly what is bothering your child, try providing them with a solution. This could mean teaching them new skills. While children with ASD may not always be immediately receptive to changes or learning new things, when you do it in a way that supports and encourages them, they are more likely to respond and even enjoy the process of learning.
Finally, parents must ensure that they are practicing these skills with their child every day. You may even consider practicing with a third person to further help your child ease into the art of conversation.
After you have assessed your child, make a note of their strengths and set the expectations accordingly so that your child knows how to behave based on the feedback he/she gets.
Let’s talk about Alex to elucidate the importance of practicing communication skills.
Alex enjoys talking to people - this is a strength. However, problems arise when Alex loves to talk but doesn’t feel the need to listen to what others have to say. In this case, he either keeps talking without letting others get a word in edgewise or says what he wants to and doesn’t pay attention when the other person responds.
What can you do as a parent to resolve this situation? You can’t force him to listen, obviously. But what you can do is introduce a third person into the conversation. Perhaps they can talk to Alex about his current likes, one of which is Ironman.
Person X: I think Ironman is cool, I've watched all parts of the movie series.
Parent to Alex: Would you like to ask Person X more about Ironman? Looks like he knows a lot about him.
Now, since Alex is interested in Ironman, chances are he would want to listen to what Person X has to say about him. Alex can also be asked to chime in with his opinion of Ironman or what he likes most about the character. Be sure to recognize his efforts at listening and praise him accordingly, in order to reinforce such behavior.
Parents should also consider keeping a journal of their child’s behavior and the changes and progress they see on a daily basis. This will also allow the parent to understand where the child’s strengths lie and how they can be best used to help him overcome his weaknesses.
Here’s how parents can support their child in this growth
Visual assistance: Use a scale or stick to indicate who has to speak next. Also, you can use signs like stop, listen, and talk to your child in order to navigate the conversation, smoothly.
Allow them to think: This is a fun way to have a conversation. Have Alex ask a few questions or have the third person ask Alex a few questions. When the conversation is made interesting, Alex would be more likely to listen to what Person X has to say. Person X can then follow up with questions like, ‘what is your favorite memory?’ or ‘who is your favorite teacher and why.’
As Alex gets better at listening and waiting for his turn to speak, you can gradually increase the duration for answers and reward him accordingly.
Film your child: Some children love watching themselves in a video. Record Alex while he’s in a conversation with Person X. You can later watch the video together with Alex and discuss feedback such as, how he could have made a better statement or ended the conversation in a smoother manner. This also helps Alex understand how abrupt interruptions actually look and why he probably shouldn’t do that again.
We hope this blog has helped you get some answers. Following these simple and easy to execute steps will help you support your child at home. But, if you feel you need professional help, we are happy to talk to you. Feel free to contact us via the button below.