Communication - Language Difficulties

May be non verbal or have little speech.

 

  1. Simplify your language – begin with one word interactions and build on this.

  2. Use clear, concise and literal language ‘say what you mean’.

  3. Encourage play and social interaction.  Interactive play (including singing) may help to promote language.  Position yourself in front of them (if they can cope with this) so they can see and hear you easily.

  4. Follow their interests, don’t interrupt but narrate their play i.e. if they are placing a toy in a box say ‘in’ etc.

  5. Focus on non-verbal communication – If you want to show something point using an exaggerated gesture and say ‘look’.  Ensure you respond to their gestures.

  6. Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) – PECS begins with teaching an individual to exchange a picture of a desired item with a teacher/carer who immediately gives them the item.  PECS then moves on to forming simple sentences and eventually adds descriptive words i.e. ‘I want the red ball’ depending on the cognitive level of the individual.

  7. Sign Language – Uses signs (gestures) along with speech, this may aid communication and prompt speech.

  8. Makaton – Makaton uses speech with signs (gestures) and symbols (pictures) to help people communicate.

  9. Voice Output Communication Aid – This uses a tablet to speak phrases when the user taps a picture or adds certain words.

  10. Speech Therapy – They may use the ‘Cues-pause-point’ method where they will ask a question and prompt the answer with a cue to aid verbal communication.

  11. Model language – If a sibling is taking a toy, model the word ‘stop’ or ‘no’ i.e. model words they should say.

  12. If they want something and reach for it state ‘I want the ...’ again modelling the words they should use.

  13. Mimic their sounds and behaviour.  Intensive Interaction uses body language to ‘learn their language’ and respond to ‘what’ they do and ‘how’ they do it, to understand how they are feeling and initiate interaction.  For more information see www.phoebecaldwell.co.uk.

  14. Visual Supports – There are many ways to use visual supports such as labels on items, photos, symbols, written words, schedules, timetables, reward charts, choice boards, sequence strips (i.e. bathroom routine).

May have little understanding of the order of sentences.

  1. Simplify your language – begin with one word interactions and build on this.

  2. Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) – PECS begins with teaching an individual to exchange a picture of a desired item with a teacher/carer who immediately gives them the item.  PECS then moves on to forming simple sentences and eventually adds descriptive words i.e. ‘I want the red ball’ depending on the cognitive level of the individual.

 

May copy words but with no real meaning (Echolalia).

 

  1. Understand the communication purpose of Echolalia – Echolalia can be used to connect in play, to convey a feeling i.e. ‘shop is closed’ each time they are disappointed, to remember steps i.e. ‘get cup’, ‘pour juice’, ‘drink juice’ etc, if they don’t know how to react to a question or they may repeat your phrase to allow themselves processing time.  

  2. Teach scripts to prompt correct answers i.e. ‘what is your name?’ and teach correct response (their name).  This will not work for responses that change i.e. ‘what colour is your top?’ as the response may change daily.

  3. Teach scripts that focus on needs i.e. ‘I need help’, ‘I am hungry’, ‘please stop’

  4. Teach the ‘I don’t know’ script.  Ask questions you know that they don’t know the answer to and then prompt the ‘I don’t know’ response.

  5. When saying ‘hi’, ‘goodbye’ etc don’t use their names afterwards as they may repeat this back to you.  Say their name first, pause and then say ‘goodbye’.

  6. Speech Therapy – They may use the ‘Cues-pause-point’ method where they will ask a question and prompt the answer with a cue to aid verbal communication.

  7. Model language – If a sibling is taking a toy, model the word ‘stop’ or ‘no’ i.e. model words they should say.

  8. If they want something and reach for it state ‘I want the ...’ again modelling the words they should use.

  9. Visual Supports – There are many ways to use visual supports such as labels on items, photos, symbols, written words, schedules, timetables, reward charts, choice boards, sequence strips (i.e. bathroom routine).

 

May use repetition of words, sentences, questions.

 

  1. Repetition of words, phrase or questions can be used for several different reasons.  They may be used as a calming tool, for fun, to check a response hasn’t changed, to feel in control and to convey feelings.  See Self-stimulatory Behaviour section for advice.

 

May have unusual tone, stress, pitch, volume of speech.

 

  1. Voice volume (too loud, too quiet) – Create a 5 point scale where 1= no voice, 2= whisper, 3= talking, 4= yelling, 5= screaming.  Use this to help identify their own and others volume of voice.  Refer to this throughout the day.

  2. Social Skills group – These may help with understanding others tone of voice, pitch etc.

May struggle to understand the tone, stress, pitch and speech volume of others.

 

  1. Social Skills group – These may help with understanding others tone of voice, pitch etc.  This may include Role Play.

 

May have a literal interpretation of language.

 

  1. Use clear, concise and literal language ‘say what you mean’.

  2. Language Skills group – These help teach understanding of abstract language i.e. sarcasm, metaphor, idioms.

  3. Try to avoid using idioms and metaphors.  However, if used explain the meaning of them straight away i.e. ‘pigs might fly’ really means ‘it will never happen’.

 

May have a difficulty understanding sarcasm, metaphors and other abstract language.

 

  1. Language Skills group – These help teach understanding of abstract language i.e. sarcasm, metaphor, idioms.

  2. Try to avoid using idioms and metaphors.  However, if used explain the meaning of them straight away i.e. ‘pigs might fly’ really means ‘it will never happen’.

 

May have language way beyond their years.

 

  1. They may have a broad vocabulary but also struggle with social communication.  See Social Communication Difficulties section for advice.

 

Additional Support

 

Speech and Language Therapy may be beneficial for individuals if current approaches are not being effective.

Contact us:
SHINE for Autism is a registered CIO - Charity number 1185018
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