Developing speech and language is a significant milestone in a child’s development. But what about children who never develop these skills? Many children with special needs are non-verbal meaning that they do not use speech to communicate at all. In fact, almost a quarter of people with autistic spectrum disorder are non-verbal. However there are many ways a child can communicate, even without speech. Last week, we provided some approaches to encouraging language development. Today, we’ll discuss some strategies for encouraging communication in non-verbal children.
Keep Talking! Even though a child may not use speech to communicate, those around them still can! Using speech in the right way can help you connect with your child and help them engage with the world around them. Follow your child’s interest by joining them in an activity, and narrate what you are doing. Use simple, repetitive language, and experiment with the tone and volume that your child responds to; some children are encouraged by a louder, more lively tone while others prefer quiet, gentle speech.
Take Note of Non-Verbal Communication: Non-verbal children may use communication strategies like head nodding or shaking, gestures, and pointing, as well as less conventional means of communication. These gestures or repetitions of sounds may hold special meaning for a child and represent and attempt to communicate something. Pay attention to gestures or scripting (e.g. repeating lines from a television show or movie) that your child uses frequently and see if they happen in specific situations.
Alternative and Augmentative Communication: Alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) can be a great alternative for many non-verbal children. AAC encompasses a range of different means of communication, from basic sign language or picture drawing to high-tech options, like speech-generating devices. A speech-language pathologist can provide an assessment of your child’s strengths and needs and recommend an AAC strategy that is the most appropriate for your child.
If you have any questions or would like to know more about speech-language therapy, give me a call at (212) 308-7725 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to chat and answer any questions you may have.
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