Improving communication in Children with ASD
Autism Spectrum Disorder comes with its challenges one of which is communication impairment in children suffering from the disorder. Children with ASD may have difficulty developing language skills (talking) and understanding what others say and may also have difficulty communicating nonverbally, such as through hand gestures, eye contact, and facial expressions. However, the inability to speak or use proper language is not an inability to think or have an opinion, therefore, it is essential to teach them how to express themselves. There are many different approaches to improve communication skills. For best outcomes, treatment programs should always begin early. These include:-
Speech Language Pathologist: This is a health professional who performs an evaluation on the child and designs an appropriate treatment programme tailored to the child’s age and interests. Speech Therapy also addresses both the child’s behavior and communication skills and offer regular reinforcement of positive actions. Most children with ASD respond well to highly structured, specialized programs. Parents or primary caregivers as well as other family members should be involved in the treatment program so it will become part of the child’s daily life.
Makaton signs: This is a language programme that was designed to provide a means of communication to individuals who cannot communicate efficiently by speaking. The Makaton language programme has been effectively used with individuals with autism and other disabilities. It uses a multi approach to teach language and academic skills through a combination of speech, signs, and graphic symbols used concurrently or a combination of two (speech & sign) (speech and graphic) (sign and graphics) as appropriate for the student’s needs. However, for individuals with autism, te rule of thumb is using speech alongside sign or speech with graphic , and like every other learning method, the student can progress in their language use, using whatever modes are most appropriate and moves from basic stage to more complex stages.
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC): using other ways of communication (other than oral speech) to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. Every human being uses AAC when we make facial expressions or hand and body gestures or when we use symbols, pictures and writing.
People with severe speech or language problems rely on AAC to supplement existing speech or replace speech that is not functional. Special augmentative aids, such as picture and symbol communication boards and electronic devices, are available to help people express themselves. This may increase social interaction, school performance, and feelings of self-worth. AAC should not replace speech for users who have some form of speech but as aids to enhance their communication.
Technology: (A form of AAC) Not all children with ASD will develop verbal communication, in such cases, an alternative for self-expression will be needed. There are technology apps on iPads and other devices that have been developed for this purpose. Parents can search for the one they are most comfortable with and teach their children how to use them to communicate their needs. They usually have text-to-speech voices and also come with symbols, different designs and functions as well as prices. These are available in App stores.
All hope is not lost. With patient endurance, children with ASD can ALL learn how to communicate verbally or otherwise. Teaching children with ASD how to communicate is essential in helping curb frustration thereby minimizing behavioural issues and also helps them reach their full potential.