Autistic children often do not easily use words to communicate their needs and feelings to others. Parents, however, absolutely need to communicate with their children, and a non-verbal child requires special effort to connect with. Fortunately, there are a number of ways parents and family members can encourage non-verbal autistic children to communicate with them.
1. Look for Motivations
Encouraging a child to speak with simple motivators and rewards is a worthwhile effort for children with autism spectrum disorders. Food, specific toys, favorite movies and the help of friends, neighbors and family members who the child enjoys.
As an example, an autistic child who seems to enjoy interaction with a specific member of your family can be useful for encouraging communication with your non-verbal child. Photographs of this person or even their name can be worthwhile in this regard. Encouraging the child to point to the photograph or exchange it to you in order to request it is a sound strategy.
2. Label Feelings
Using words to label a child’s feelings when they are feeling them can open a number of doors for encouraging communication with your non-verbal child. If a child is reaching for food out of the pantry, it is a good idea to say “you are hungry” rather than asking if the child is hungry.
Using this method must be done consistently and naturally. Whenever a child is feeling a strong emotion, use words to describe it. For instance, if a non-verbal child is feeling happy, you can tell them “I am seeing you are happy”. Showing them a picture to associate with the feeling, whatever it may be, can also be helpful.
3. Aided Language Stimulation
Modeling language is a good idea as well for encouraging communication with your non-verbal child. Because a child will not always know specific words, attaching daily actions to words will be helpful for non-verbal autistic children. As an example, should your child want potatoes at the dinner table and shows as much, saying something to the effect of “I want potatoes” is providing a model for the child.
Words such as “please” or phrasing requests in the form a question can also be helpful for teaching autistic children more appropriate ways to ask for things.
4. Use Aided and Unaided Communication
Aided communication is a great way to encourage non-verbal children with autism to communicate. Aided communication is essentially anything other than your body in communication. Pictures, photos, written words or objects can all qualify. A number of autistic children find it easier to express themselves with these tools.
Unaided communication, on the other hand, is the use of the body to communicate, such as facial expression, body language, gestures, sign language and all the other methods humans use to communicate. The total communication approach is one that involves both methods of communication, as well as the usage of words, to try and full engage an autistic child in their efforts to communicate their feelings to others.