Did you know that nearly twenty-five percent of people with an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) are non-verbal? A person who is non-verbal doesn’t use speech to communicate at all. However, talking isn’t the only route for meaningful communication! Take a look at our three tips below and learn how to keep the lines of communication open with your non-verbal child:
Use a Total Communication Approach: Total communication means combining aided and unaided communication to connect. Aided communication involves some sort of external communication aid. This can range from something as simple as a series of hand-held pictures to a high-tech speech generating device. Unaided communication relies on just your body, including words, gestures, facial expressions and hand signs. Combining all modes of communication gives you the highest chance of a meaningful exchange.
Make Use of What You Have: Although children who are non-verbal may not have a traditional vocabulary, they often have a range of non-verbal gestures and actions (i.e., head nodding and shaking, pointing, clapping). Often children will use non-verbal gestures systematically, meaning they correspond with a particular situation or emotion. If a child uses a gesture or a script (e.g. repeating lines from a television show or movie) repeatedly, try to under what might underlie that non-verbal action, and use that to guide interpersonal interactions.
Keep Talking! Just because your child is non-verbal doesn’t mean you have to be! Modeling language can be a great way to improve understanding and increase the quality of interactions. Join your child in whatever activity interests them, and narrate what you are doing. Use basic vocabulary, simple sentence structure, and repetitive language. Try using different tones of voice and volumes to see what your child finds the most engaging and encouraging.
Do you have a child who is non-verbal? What do you do to encourage communication? Share your story in the comments section below!
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