Many individuals with Autism can have impairments or difficulties with diagnosis of children with autism techniques communication. Sometimes this is due to medical conditions, such as tongue abnormalities or Apraxia.
Or it can be due to severe deficits in the areas of motivation, typical language development, and social interaction skills. Speech delays can also be linked with excessive ear infections, which can lead to hearing loss or impair speech processing during times of critical brain development. The majority of the children I have worked with were non- vocal when I first met them. This means they did not consistently communicate vocally. Maybe they had some babble, or would say a few word approximations, but they were unable to reliably communicate their wants and needs to other people. I intentionally used the word “non- verbal” in the title of this post, because communication is not just words. But if I say a child is “vocal”, I am specifically saying they can communicate with words or they can talk.
Non- verbal individuals often communicate by pointing, leading, or the majority of the time: through their behavior. I have observed quite a few clients who without saying a word had an entire household catering to their every desire. The goal when working with individuals who have communication difficulties should be broader than just expressive language. That doesn’t mean they can’t ever learn to Communicate.
The goal should be teaching the child a functional, effective, system of communication. If I teach a 5 year old to label colors and body parts but she can’t tell me when she is hungry, that’s a good example of a child who can talk but isn’t using language to communicate. A young child who will echo, sing wordless songs, or babble, often can be quite successful with intensive language intervention. The behavioral piece of communication is HUGE. It can’t be stated enough: Children who cannot communicate have some of the most persistent and challenging problem behaviors. Well, just imagine that you are placed in an environment where no one speaks your language.
If you speak English, everyone else speaks French. Now imagine that you are hungry and must convince these people to feed you. How long would you try pointing and gesturing, before you started pushing people and throwing things? If a child lacks motivation to communicate, and isn’t externally required to communicate, then from the child’s perspective its much easier to engage in behaviors.
For a child with Autism to learn to communicate, reinforcement must be present. Why do I have to reinforce my child to talk? A characteristic of Autistic Disorder is qualitative impairments in communication. This can mean the child has no language, exhibits speech delays, or lacks motivation to use the language they do have. There are many different ways to do ABA, and VB is a branch on the ABA therapy tree. VB has a functional language focus.
Language is taught as a behavior and each component is broken down. Speech Therapy- For every 10 clients I see, probably 6 are also receiving speech therapy. Many parents think that ST is the only way to get a non-vocal child talking. I have worked with kids who made huge gains from ST, and I have also worked with kids who did not, even after months and months of ST. Sign Language- Always combine labeling with sign language so the child hears the correct word, as well as learns the sign.
When considering sign language you want to think about the child’s age and fine motor skills. The child learns to communicate by exchanging, touching, or pointing to photos of items, activities, individuals, etc. Systems such as these can be ideal for an individual who can match picture to sample, or demonstrates the ability to scan and select. Language Immersion- This is a method typically seen in preschools or daycares that accept very young children with special needs.
The classroom immerses the children in language throughout the day with the intention of creating a stimulating environment conducive to speech. The wide array of programs, books, resources, and clinics out there that promise to get children with Autism to talk can be very intimidating and confusing for consumers. Be a critical consumer and look for research proven methods that clearly explain how the treatment works, and what is involved. If you have to buy the treatment or purchase a book before anyone will explain exactly how it works, be suspicious. No matter which option you select to teach communication, in order for it to be effective and consistent across settings and people you will likely need to incorporate behavior management. The child must learn that anything less than the communication system will no longer be accepted. The child must also learn that communicating with people leads to good things.