Five Ways to Help Your Nonverbal Child Speak
Children with ASD often struggle with both verbal and non-verbal forms of communication. This means they are unable to effectively communicate and interact with those around them and seem to exist in a world of their own. They also experience difficulty developing language skills and comprehending what others say to them. Children with ASD may also face difficulties with communicating nonverbally, such as through hand gestures, eye contact, and facial expressions.
While most parents worry about their child’s lack of spoken language skills, they may miss out on what their child is trying to communicate to them non-verbally.
Ongoing research on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has produced various effective strategies for promoting language development in non-verbal children diagnosed with ASD. In this blog, we will discuss how parents and caretakers can help their children with ASD improve their communication skills.
Before we start, let's acknowledge the fact that every individual with ASD is unique. Hence, parents must ensure they do not compare their child's progress with another child on the spectrum. After taking into consideration your child’s specific needs and challenges, you can consider using these standardized and tested strategies shared by experts from around the world. However, it must be noted that some of these tips or strategies may not work for every child on the spectrum. Do keep an open mind and, most importantly, consult your therapist for suggestions and ensure you obtain an accurate diagnosis prior to treatment.
At Stepping Stones Center, we believe that with proper guidance, nurturing, visual supports and assistive technologies, non-verbal children with ASD can become productive members of society and lead fulfilling lives.
Here are 5 ways in which parents of children with ASD can foster improvement with their child’s communication skills:
Encourage your child to take part in social activities:
Create opportunities for your child to take part in social activities that they may enjoy. This allows them the chance to learn to communicate with others. You can also research interactive play activities that provide an enjoyable experience for children, as well as help them acquire appropriate communication skills. When you recite rhymes to your child, tell them a story or sing to them, ensuring that you stay close to them and that you are being clearly heard.
Enact the way your child communicates:
Mimic your child’s positive behavior. This helps your child keep conversations going through interaction and vocalizing. For instance, if your child is playing with soft toys, you can start enacting what they are doing, unless they do something negative like tearing the toy apart. In this case, pause and tell them in a kind tone that what they are doing is wrong.
Use simple language:
Using simple language helps children understand better - this especially applies to non-verbal children on the spectrum. Use single words such as bat, pen, book, etc. Once your child is able to use these specific words, raise the bar and start using short phrases, using the same words your child had learned.
Give children the space to understand their surroundings:
Do not complete your child’s sentences. Give them time and provide them with support so they can complete them on their own. Provide your child with a number of opportunities to communicate verbally and nonverbally. Ask questions, and when your child pauses in the middle, look toward them so they know you are seeking their response. Continue to observe their hand and body movements and respond quickly. This helps children understand that they are being understood and encourages them to continue to communicate.
Understand how your child communicates nonverbally:
Maintain eye contact and use specific gestures that you know are understood by your child. Always respond to your child’s gestures, promptly. While responding, use your body and voice, loud and clear. For instance, clearly nod your head ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ so your child can understand the difference between both and emulate the same. If your child points toward an object, take it and say its name out loud, then you can hand the object to them. Similarly, you can point to an object and say the name out loud before you begin playing with it so that your child will learn to do the same.
These are a few tips that might help you to get your non-verbal child to communicate effectively. We’d love to hear what worked for you and didn’t. Please let us know your thoughts with your comments below.
For more information regarding sensory therapy, cognitive skills, behavior therapy, developmental disorders, and early intervention, please contact Stepping Stones Center. We emphasize on acquiring new and appropriate behaviors, while also working on helping the child achieve developmentally age-appropriate milestones through evidence-based practices.