Communication Techniques for a Child with Non-Verbal Autism

If your child was diagnosed with non-verbal autism, discover effective ways to communicate and connect with these strategies.

If your child has been diagnosed with non-verbal autism, it’s understandable to be worried about your ability to communicate. However, being non-verbal doesn’t mean your child is incapable of understanding what you’re trying to communicate.

Through effective strategies, patience, and the willingness to see the world from your child’s perspective, you can encourage your child to express themselves and learn language at their own pace.

Read on to learn some effective ways of communicating with your child with autism!

1. Encourage Play

All children learn through play, and your autistic child is no different. Playful activities that your child enjoys helps them learn language, practice motor skills and promotes positive social interaction.

As you play, remember to keep yourself in front of your child and near their eye level so that they have an easier time seeing, hearing, and touching you. Use a variety of toys and objects to keep your child’s interest and to ensure they don’t get fixated on one. 

You’ll know your child is ready to play when they start to show green light signals, such as eye contact, speech-like sounds, physical touch, and your child observing what you’re doing. However, repetitious activities (stimming) are considered red light signals.

Instead of initiating play when you see a red light signal, join your child and do the same as them. With green light signals, here are a few fun play ideas! You can even check out some autism friendly attractions.   

Sorting and Matching

Use a variety of objects to sort and match. For instance, sort balls from cubes, or toy cars from toy dinosaurs. You can also match objects with a picture of the object. Make these activities simple so that there is little room for mistakes. 

Build the Tower

Build a tower out of multi-colored blocks, then ask your child to build one of their own that copies yours. As they build the tower, remember to point to the objects they’re using and name them. 

Draw the Scene

Be creative with your child! With crayons or colored pencils, ask your child to draw a scene of their favorite meal, their family, or their favorite place. When they’re done,  display their work in a prominent space of your home so they can feel pride in their creations and recall happy memories.

2. Patient Communication

Remember to speak to your non-verbal child assuming they can understand you. Even if your child is non-verbal, this doesn’t mean that they can’t comprehend what you’re saying. Speak in a normal voice and at a normal level, and encourage other adults in your household to do the same. 

However, you still want to allow them time to process information and make sure that they have understood your instructions. Simplify your language to short phrases of one or two words at a time in order to help them. 

Look at them for several seconds as you wait for their response, and respond promptly to any sound or body movement they make.

3. Nonverbal Communication 

Gestures and eye contact are also huge components of communication with your child. Use exaggerated gestures as you communicate both verbally and with your body. For instance, nod your head as you say “yes,” or point while you say “look.”

Reach out your arms when you request a hug, and rub your belly when asking if they’re hungry. These gestures should be easy for your child to imitate.

4. Follow Along

Follow your child’s lead instead of interrupting an activity they’re focused on. For instance, if they’re playing with their favorite toy, narrate what your child is doing so that they can begin associating their actions with words. For instance, when they hug their teddy bear, say “hug.” If they place a shape in a shape sorter, say “in.” 

5. Assistive Devices

Assistive devices or visual supports help bolster language. The Technology-Related Assistance to Individuals with Disability Act of 1988 described them as “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customize, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.” 

Children with autism typically process visual information easier than auditory information. You can say that pictures are their first language, and words are their second. From low to high tech, these devices help autistic children improve their: 

  • Understanding of their environment
  • Communication skills
  • Social interaction skills
  • Independent daily functioning skills
  • Self-help skills
  • Motivation skills

Low-tech examples of assistive devices can be dry erase boards, photo albums, or laminated photos. High-tech devices can be computer applications, video cameras, or complex voice output devices. 

Communicating with Non-Verbal Autism

As you can see, communicating is still possible if your child has non-verbal autism – they just have a different way of expressing themselves. They also need your guidance and patience as they navigate an overwhelming world of sound. 

As you utilize different strategies such as playtime, assistive devices, and non-verbal communication, it will begin to become easier for both of you to understand one another. As your child learns to associate words with certain objects, actions, and needs, you’ll learn your child’s unique way of expressing themselves through sound, touch, and motion. 

Are you ready to read more ways to improve your parenting skills or help you cope? Keep reading our blog for more informative articles!

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