One of the main deficits in people with ASD is delayed speech and language. Communication can be verbal, non-verbal, and through AAC devices. Children with ASD can have difficulty knowing the power of communication. They do not understand how to get basic or social needs met through language and communication. Communication like gaining attention from others, delivering messages, and conversations are needed to be independent. It is important to promote language and help communication growth but remember it can be frustrating not being able to communicate with others, so challenging behaviors may occur.
Non-verbal communication is important to teach and incorporate with daily speech. Children that have ASD have delays in verbal communication, as well as conveying and interpreting non-verbal communication. This means they have difficulty using body language, gestures, and expressions to communicate. By improving this it can help children can become more effective communicators. To support this area, you can add animated facial expressions to help with visual attending to others while playing. Gestures and pointing can help promote eye contact and development of non-verbal communication.
Verbal communication starts with mands, or more commonly known as, requests. This is the first thing that a child is taught so they understand the power of communication. Mands get their needs and wants met, so they are more likely to use it in the future. Once the child’s wants or needs are determined then you can prompt an alternative and safe way to communicate those wants or needs. Based on the abilities of the child, a PECS or communication device might be needed to communicate. The child can point, hand a picture, or click a button on a device to mand. For children that can imitate sounds and speech, they can repeat those wanted words or phrases. To increase the use of these mands, setting up contrived situations would be beneficial for practice. Have desired or reinforcing items out of reach where the children would have to mand for what they want/need. This could be having your child say, “buh” or “bubbles,” in order to gain access to the bubbles.
Tacts, or labeling, focuses more on the social interaction versus gaining access to the item. It is important for a child’s development to spontaneously commenting on the environment and world around them. Tacting works on children answering questions like “what’s that?” Labeling in the natural environment draws attention to the item or to the speaker. To increase tacting, you can place pictures around the house or in the environment. Then have the child label the picture and provide natural comments about the label.
Intraverbal, also referred to as fill-ins, are important to having conversations. When they are first introduced, intraverbals are simple fill is such as “1, 2, ….” or “ready, set, …” As the language expands for a child, the intraverbals can become more advanced. Introducing intraverbals during play routines can be effective for expanding language. As the language expands, the child will learn to answer a wide range of questions. This could include “How old are you?” “What’s your mom’s name?” “What grade are you in?”
By expanding language, it gives children the child their own power and voice their own wants and needs. The child is first taught important non-verbal communication and mands including learning gestures or using requests like, “more,” “stop,” and “eat.” Working on tacting, or labels, promotes spontaneous language growth for children. Intraverbals should be incorporated after building up mands and tacts with your child. Intraverbals focus on communicating with others and starts as the foundation for having conversations in the future. All of these steps can help children with ASD become more independent by using language and communication.
Resources: Mission Cognition, LLC. Family Training Resource