At a holiday gathering, your 8-year-old son is telling his aunt exactly how he went about constructing a complicated Lego spaceship. He spares no detail as Aunt Ann smiles and nods, eyes glazing over. You walk over to join them and try to help him become aware of her nonverbal clues and wrap up his one-sided conversation. With no success,…
Here is something I hear quite frequently – “My child has been placed on a waiting list for assessment. We have to wait several months before someone will see my child. Is there something I can do in the meantime to help my child before a diagnosis is given?”
Anxious parents don’t want to wait to start intervening if they suspect something is amiss. If a diagnosis of autism is suspected, there is much that can be done even before an official diagnosis is given. If suspicions turn out to be incorrect, the help given will not have been harmful in any way. I was in this waiting position with my own son, seeking a diagnosis for him at 10 months of age. The diagnosis did not happen until 2 years later even though I was persistent. In the meantime, I felt helpless as I watched Marc lose what few words he had, become increasingly frustrated, and his challenging behavior escalated. I wanted to do something but didn’t know where or how to start.
Ido Kedar is a young man on the spectrum who has an excellent blog called Ido in Autismland. In his own words, he says: “I am an autistic guy with a message. I spent the first half of my life completely trapped in silence. The second – on becoming a free soul. I had to fight to get an education.…
Great strides have been made in reducing the number of nonverbal people with autism from 50 percent to 25 percent. This decline is more than likely due to early intervention programs and the diagnosis of milder forms of autism. Early intervention programs have been promoting language development. Researchers are now saying to better understand and treat this subgroup of nonverbal…
Verbal communication can be an area of difficulty for people with autism. Using a camera can be an alternate way of communicating and most children love to use them. Looking at what they take pictures of, angles, colours, and details can give you a peek into how the person with autism sees the world.
Whether you are a parent or professional, encouraging language development can be a difficult task. Many children with autism don’t seek out interaction with people and language delays/difficulties can impede the acquisition of speech. A lack of speech along with the ability to express wishes or thoughts can result in challenging behavior.
The other challenge with communication is a lack of nonverbal cues such as pointing or using facial expressions. Even before language develops, toddlers use nonverbal techniques to get their message across. Eye contact, eye gaze, and hand gestures can give an adult cues about what the child wants.
People on the autism spectrum tend to learn best using visual supports rather than through auditory input. Seeing it, rather than saying it, helps the person retain and process information. Temple Grandin, the most famous woman in the world with autism, describes being a visual thinker in her excellent book Thinking in Pictures.
Visual supports can be used to: create daily/weekly schedules, show sequential steps in a task such as a bedtime routine or getting dressed, demonstrate units of time, make a “to do” list, or to aide communication.
There are many treatment options and teaching strategies in the field of autism spectrum disorders which assume that something must be changed about the person with ASD: their behavior, their responses, their thoughts, or their communication skills. The intent of this article is to introduce a broader, more inclusive, and possibly courageous, approach. We begin by first acknowledging that with the autism spectrum comes a different style of communication – different from the widespread style of communication that most (non-autistic) people are familiar with and unconsciously expect. Then consider the idea that miscommunication and misunderstanding often result from a mismatched style of communicating – and finally, that all of us are responsible when desiring improved communication.
Students with autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, PDD and other diagnoses that fall within the autism spectrum experience significant challenges in communication and social skills. In addition, they may demonstrate behavior challenges that can prevent successful participation in school and family activities.