Strategies to Help Non-Verbal Children Communicate
Rose Akinsehinwa June 2019
Communication is one of the important keys to enjoying good healthy relationships and children with special needs, especially autism usually have communication gaps, with some who have severe cases being completely non-verbal. Some strategies to help your child with special needs communicate both expressively and receptively include:
Talk/Read Aloud to your child: Do not assume that because they are not able to talk verbally yet, they are not able to hear or understand. Always talk out loud to your child at all times with demonstrations of what words mean or to communicate the names of objects and items. You should also read books aloud and make them animated to bring the words some meaning and life, this will also create enjoyment and memories. Books with pictures and illustrations or even audio visual books will be beneficial.
Assistive Technology: With Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices, children can learn to communicate with either Picture to Speech or Word to Speech Apps. As they advance in learning, some children are able to type full sentences depending on the degree of their need and capabilities. Some concerns that parents have expressed about AACs is that their children might not talk because they are comfortable with the device. On the contrary, AACs encourage children to imitate the sounds which will help them make sounds and eventually learn to talk for themselves.
Interactive Games and Play: Games like hide and seek or play like blowing bubbles etc. can help the child interact in a two-way communication and better recognize the patterns of cause and effect. Play will also help with understanding and developing complex nonverbal communication such as facial expressions, body language and gestures and can help a child figure out the meanings of other people’s nonverbal communication. Not only will this foster communication but play will also help with problem-solving which in turn helps in cognitive and social development through interaction with others.
Oral Exercises: Oral exercises like mouth rubbing, bubble blowing and party blowers will help strengthen the mouth muscles. Vocal exercises like making babababa, dadadada etc. sounds, being silly and having fun while you encourage your child imitate you will be of benefit to the child as he will be exerting the mouth muscles and pushing himself to make sounds.
The ability to communicate their wants and needs or to express their feeling clearly will not only make your child self-confident and more outgoing but will help to curb social awkwardness and reduce undesirable behaviour that come from frustrations of not understanding or being understood.