21 Mar 5 Simple Things You Can Do Right Now to Help Your Non-Verbal Child
Communication isn’t easy for most children with autism. However, if your child is non-verbal, the challenges can feel even more frustrating and overwhelming. There are a few things that you can do, right now, to help your child communicate his needs.
1. Use visual tools.
Whether you are using pictures, photographs, words, or all three, use visuals that your child can look at throughout the day. The more opportunities he has to connect words and images to actual objects and activities, the more you are promoting the concept that words hold meaning.
Create a visual schedule so that your child knows what to expect. Review the schedule throughout the day by pointing to the pictures and saying the activities aloud.
Create visuals to help your child understand the steps involved in a task. Have him point to the pictures as he is completing each step. Autism Educates has a set of visuals tools available to purchase to assist with self-help skills and understanding emotions.
2. Talk all of the time.
Model language and communication by talking to your child at home, in the car, outside, in the store, and EVERYWHERE! Point out objects, feelings, clothing, and people so that he is immersed in vocabulary and opportunities.
In addition to talking in natural settings, read to your child. If he has a difficult time focusing for extended periods of time, read one or two pages of a book. Pick out books that are highly interesting to him. And, read actual books, not books on an electronic device. Reading physical books will enable your child to engage more thoroughly in the experience by possibly pointing to the pictures and independently going back to pages that he enjoys.
3. Give him plenty of opportunities to observe conversation skills.
Eat meals together as a family so that he can model conversation skills. Sit down with family members and your child, and just talk. Exaggerate some of your words and facial expressions to make conversations more entertaining.
4. Have a functional communication system set up and always have it readily available.
If your child is non-verbal or having difficulties communicating, be sure to reach out to your local Speech and Language Pathologist. Request that he be evaluated for an augmentative communication device. Or, ask about upcoming trainings on how to best use a communication app to help your child. There are so many technology resources at your fingertips these days, so feel empowered to take advantage of all that is available.
You can also print out pictures from the internet that represent your child’s interests. Place pictures in a portable notebook so that he can point to or touch a requested item.
5. Create opportunities where he has to request items that he wants.
Place favorite items in clear plastic containers. Then place the containers on a shelf out of your child’s reach but within view. When your child wants something, encourage him to point, gesture, or verbally request the item. The more opportunities that you set up for him to communicate his needs, the more practice he will get. You could even take photographs of the toys in the containers, print out the images, and place them on a Velcro board. Encourage your child to bring you the picture of the requested item when he wants something.
While these recommendations are not a magic pill that will make your child instantly start talking, they are practical strategies that can set your whole family up for some successful experiences.
For more support and strategies, please be sure to check out our online program, The Autism Solutions Blueprint. There are sections focused on communication (among 11 other topics), visual tools that you can print out, and video trainings to walk you through how to make your home autism-friendly. In honor of April being Autism Awareness Month, you can literally pay whatever you can afford for this program for the next few weeks. Click here for more information.