Non-Speaking Autism: How to Improve Communication Skills in Children with ASD

It might be difficult to know what to do if you’re not sure how to help your kid learn to communicate and interact more successfully with others.

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If you’re a parent with an autistic kid who can’t communicate their feelings, needs, or wants in words, you may be interested in finding ways to help them improve their communication abilities. We’ll look at some techniques that seem promising.

What Is Nonvocal Communication, and Should You Care?

To begin, let’s define some of the languages. What does the term “nonvocal” imply? What does the phrase “nonverbal” imply?

Although it is frequently used to describe those with autism, the term “nonverbal” is not always accurate. A child with autism who does not utilize many words or communicate through speech may be described as “nonvocal,” but it does not imply they are “nonverbal.”

“Nonvocal” refers to “nonspeaking” in this instance. People use a wide range of nonverbal behavior, including gestures, body language, and pictures, to communicate.

Even if someone communicates without using spoken language, those who are nonvocal may be considered vocal as long as they use sign language or the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) to communicate.

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What Can Parents Do to Assist Their Nonvocal Child?

TThere are many strategies that parents may utilize to help their nonverbal children with autism learn to communicate. For the best outcomes, a behavior analyst, speech therapist, and/or occupational therapist should be consulted.

Nonverbal youngsters with autism may have difficulties expressing themselves through speech, and this article will cover methods for communication for nonvocal children with autism, as well as evidence-based therapies that can be used to improve vocal language skills.

Using a Technology-Based Communication Tool

Using a communication device such as an iPad or a Speech Generating Device (SGD) can give voice output for children who are not yet talking. TouchChat and Proloqou2go may be downloaded to the iPad.

Communication devices, especially those utilizing apps on a phone or tablet, are much less obvious because most individuals carry such equipment in public.

Touchscreens may be more simple to use and the applications may have language added or deleted with ease. Speech-language pathologists can assess youngsters for communication devices and choose what is best for their skill set and requirements.

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution, so it’s crucial to test out various forms of communication for an appropriate length of time to see if any app or gadget is a good match for the kid.

It’s also highly advisable to get advice from a specialist who has experience assisting families in developing an effective communication system for their child.

Children may not comprehend the purpose of communication technologies, how to use them, or what to do with them without appropriate instruction and training.

To promote generalization, parents, school personnel, and other therapists should use the communication device throughout the child’s day to incorporate it into his or her activities.

Using a non-technology-based communication system

Non-technological communication methods include picture exchange and sign language.

PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System)

PECS is a communication technique that uses verbal language and applied behavioral analysis to teach it. Functional communication is taught using reinforcement and particular prompting techniques.

The PECS approach has six distinct stages:

  1. How to interact with others
  2. Distance and perseverance
  3. Racial discrimination
  4. Grammar structure
  5. Expansion of language and attributes
  6. Requesting that is responsive
  7. Citing

First, the individual learns to request by exchanging a photo with a communication partner for anything or doing an activity.

Then he or she must learn how to distinguish between photos, how to express them in sentences, and how to utilize phrases and modifiers.

The Picture Exchange Communication System has been successfully utilized with students of all ages and abilities. A speech therapist or behavior analyst might help you set up the picture exchange communication system for your kid.

A GoTalk device can be used in conjunction with PECS or as a substitute for it. PECS is a visual communication system that may be readily understood by those around the kid.

The youngster will have to learn and be taught how to communicate by way of PECS icons with individuals in the community who no longer have regular adult assistance. Because children with autism respond well to visual stimuli, PECS may be a fantastic tool for them.

Sign Language (American Sign Language)

Sign language is another non-technology method of teaching communication. Many parents start teaching their children sign language at around the age of six months.

Sign language is a great illustration of functional communication because toddlers are educated to communicate rather of cry or throw a tantrum to get their needs met.

It also prevents parents from guessing a toddler’s requirements when the youngster is capable of communicating them through sign language.

The two disadvantages of sign language are that the student must have excellent fine motor abilities, and that the communication partner must be able to comprehend sign language in order for the communication to be effective.

Although there are some drawbacks, starting a nonvocal toddler with sign language can begin to increase their communication and language abilities, which may be followed by PECS or a communication device as needed.

In their everyday life, children should learn how to effectively communicate with others.

In addition to the communication techniques we’ve covered, there are a few simple methods that parents may use to encourage communication in their children while they play and throughout everyday life.

Establishing and maintaining effective communication during play

Parents may start by playing with their kid. They can put their child in charge of a game or activity they enjoy, or give him the option of which activity to do.

Paying attention to the youngster’s body language, facial expressions, eye gaze, and vocalizations may help you determine whether he or she is interested in an object, wants your attention, or has other emotions.

If a kid is smiling, looking at you, or babbling while engaged in an activity or using something, they are most likely interested.If a kid is looking away, shielding their body or turning their body away from the thing or activity, attempting to depart the room, avoiding eye contact, pointing or grasping for other things, they are most likely losing interest.

  • When a youngster shows an interest, this is an excellent opportunity to convey enthusiasm for the activity, describe the item or action, and play interactively.
  • When a youngster isn’t engaged, this is a fantastic opportunity for a parent to provide guidance in order to request that everything be completed, request something else, take a pause, and so on.

The non-verbal communication of the toddler, combined with the parent’s support for the kid to play and learn communication naturally, may guide the play event.

It’s a fantastic method to teach young children language skills while having fun.

Singing might also help to increase sociability. The child’s attention and involvement can be increased by addressing the youngster at eye level, facing the kid, and enunciating clearly while speaking or singing.

Communication with imitation skills is important for good communication.

Parents may also assist nonvocal children in communicating by teaching them imitation skills through modeling. Many children with autism do not pay attention to the actions of others and do not imitate peers or adults in the same way that typical youngsters do.

Pointing Training for Kids

Teaching a youngster how to point can assist them develop the communication skills needed to express their wants and needs. Parents should choose an extremely desired item, then demonstrate pointing at it. Create pointer movements by using your hands to form the child’s hands into a point if required.

Give them the item as soon as they are pointing at it! This is especially beneficial if the object is edible since they will want to point at it again in order to get more!

Continue to assist the youngster in pointing to the thing and giving less and less assistance as they learn how to point with their finger on their own.

Rather of instructing them, try assisting them by using your hands instead of telling them, “point.” We want our kids to learn how to point by imitating someone else’s body rather than following a teacher’s instructions to point when learning how to ask for things.

Support for Imitation and Communication Skills

Using toys and dolls to model signs can also assist in the learning process. Physical prompting and imitation of sign gestures (as you learn them, obviously) might aid kids in learning how to express yes, no, request their preferred items, and so on.

Can Your Child Respond To Yes/No Questions?

It’s a lot easier to communicate with your kid if they understand how to answer basic yes or no inquiries, as well as request their favorite stuff.

Make any necessary adjustments to your attempts.

When they start signing or imitating, make sure to compliment their efforts. This implies that provide them with what they need when they sign or gesture. This can help encourage the behavior to recur more frequently in the future. If they tried to sign or gesture without receiving anything in return, they may be less inclined to do so in the future.

Receptive Language Abilities

Preschoolers who are able to grasp the connecting elements between sounds and letters, phrases, and words have an easier time learning language.

The ability to use signs as labels for objects or pictures is also a vital part of developing receptive communication abilities such as following simple instructions, identifying items, and recognizing things in photographs.

It’s also important to teach youngsters that pictures represent objects and objects represent pictures so that they realize that their PECS images mean the same thing as the thing they’re asking for. When a youngster develops a communication strategy that works for them to label things and pictures as well as respond to inquiries, their receptive language abilities may be applied to expressiveness.

Take Photos of Your House

Parents may also assist their children communicate by hanging images around the house. For example, having a refrigerator or cabinet with snack and meal options for the kid to point to, or removing the picture and handing it to the parent. This is an excellent place to start when learning how to convey using PECS.

Another option would be to provide the child with a visual selection board of their favorite TV programs on or near the television set.

The youngster may then point instead of screaming or getting angry until mom or dad finds the right show for them.

On the other hand, if the youngster prefers consuming fast food, fast-food restaurant options may be displayed in the vehicle on a choice board. When the youngsters go out, they might pick where to go for playtime from a choice board in the automobile. For example, the library, pool, or park may be on such a list.

There are several ways that photographs might assist a youngster in communicating what they want or need without having to talk. It also takes some of the guessings out of determining what the youngster wants or making decisions for them, and the kid is dissatisfied.

Giving children control and choice whenever feasible is beneficial for their development.

Functional Communication Training (FCT)

Functional communication training is a learning approach that helps to replace complicated speech (such as reaching or leading an adult to something) with more easily understood and more functional language forms (such as pointing, using the picture exchange communication system, signing, using a device, or verbalizations).

Children frequently use whatever methods they can to obtain what they desire. Non-vocal children may frequently take charge of their parents, go for goods, or show symptoms like weeping or tantrums in an effort to be met.

Functional communication training may help children learn to ask for what they want and need in a way that others can comprehend. Additionally, FCT aids in the development of more advanced communication abilities.

It is critical for a child to have a communication technique to utilize as a replacement behavior for the behaviours we don’t want to see, such as crying or throwing a tantrum, in order for functional communication training to be effective.

A youngster may, for example, lead his or her parent to the refrigerator when they need milk. Instead of that, a youngster might take out an image of a milk on their PECS book and offer it to their parent.

A kid may also ask for milk by gesturing to a picture of milk on the refrigerator or shouting “milk.”Asking for milk using a more comprehensible communication method might assist everyone involved in the child’s life understand what he or she wants rather than having to “guess” when they are led to the refrigerator.

The attention of the adult they are trying to communicate with is necessary for effective language training.

When using sign language, gesture, or picture exchange, a kid will most likely have to attract the attention of the person they are attempting to interact nTeach the youngster to first attract the adult’s attention, then convey their request using their chosen medium.

Children who utilize a voice output device such as an iPad may not need to attract attention before making a request; they should, however, be close enough to the individual that they can be heard.

All members of the communication network (parents, siblings, teachers, therapists, etc.) The method of communication should be clearly understood and consistently reinforced, especially in the early phases of teaching.

Skills for Generalizing and Maintaining

It’s critical to keep practicing these communication abilities and extending them across different contexts. Generalizing skills means the child is able to use the skill in a variety of locations, with a variety of people, and with a variety of materials.

This will assist the youngster in communicating naturally in their environment without requiring them to have any particular things or individuals.

Parents are an essential component of a child’s development, especially when it comes to communication skills.

Consultation with a behavior analyst or speech therapist is suggested, but encouraging and congratulating a youngster for speaking correctly can go a long way in assisting them in successfully navigating their daily life by employing excellent communication abilities.