Sometimes even simple adjustments can make a big improvement. The following suggestions require little or no expense and with a little planning or thinking ahead can increase opportunities for communication for your child.
1. Control your materials-
Place preferred food, toys and other items out of reach so your child must request them by looking, pointing, using sign, pictures or words.
Give your child regular opportunities throughout the day to move around. Jumping on a trampoline, kicking a ball, swinging, running or any other physical activity your child enjoys may improve their ability to learn.
3. Play with language-
Repeat (echo) words with your child, write words as you say them with markers, in shaving cream, dry beans or legos. Pair language with pictures to play to visual strengths usually present in children on the spectrum. Sing words or phrases instead of saying them. Some children with respond to musical requests or try to sing words even if they don’t seem interested in spoken language.
4. Allow for repetition-
Your child may be paying close attention even if they aren’t talking or don’t say much. So repeat words, phrases or gestures you want them to use as often as possible in as many environments as possible. Let them listen to the same song, read the same story or watch the same video repeatedly. Autistic adults report this technique is helpful for processing and learning information as well as easing anxiety in some cases.
When your child points at a juice box or says “bubu” for bubbles, reward these requests with the desired item or activity whenever possible. Figure out what your child is passionate about and build language lessons around their favorite subject. Do they like coniferous trees? Teach color, texture and numbers using pictures of pine trees or better yet, the real thing. Have them count pine needles or cones.
6. Pay attention to patterns-
If your child communicates sometimes but not always, don’t assume they are being stubborn. They may do better in certain environments, with certain people or under specific conditions. Furthermore, learning to communicate is exhausting. It’s normal to go through bursts of productivity followed by the need for a break. Inconsistent language can also be a red flag for seizures and other medical conditions so be sure to talk with their healthcare provider to rule out any medical conditions.
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Have you found other strategies that work? Share your ideas in the comments below.