How Do We Help Children with Autism Learn to Speak?

Posted on 07. Mar, 2011 by Kelly in Featured Articles, Library

By Jane Langdon -

This can be one of the most daunting questions parents of children with autism try to answer.  As we know, each individual autistic child presents with their own particular mixture of abilities and challenges. Therefore, there is no “one-fix suits all” solution when it comes to helping children impacted by autism in learning language. That’s why in trying to answer this question, I’m not relying solely on my Speech and Language training, but also on other approaches I believe are beneficial and appropriate to use with autistic individuals. They have all been personally employed during the last 12 years on my journey of discovery whilst investigating this field for the development of my own autistic son.

I started this journey as the parent of a nonverbal autistic child, experiencing the all-too typical exodus of friends following diagnosis. Having my own Social Worker and being on first name terms with all the professionals in the area, I had already been implementing dietary intervention for several years and also had training in Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) before I went into Speech and Language therapy. Working with professionals using new behavioural and neurological approaches has helped further develop my understanding of how an autistic individual can learn and progress.

Considerations for the Non-Verbal Child When asking yourself the question: “How do I help my autistic child learn to speak?” consider things from the child’s point of view: “Why would I want to learn to speak?” If you take a step back and observe your child impartially, you’ll see a person actively employing a variety of strategies to avoid interaction with others, whilst at the same time controlling the environment to suit his needs. This often happens through use of simple but effective methods such as throwing himself down and screaming loudly until the desired item appears. Some would say that this behaviour occurs because:

  • The individual has autism
  • The individual can’t speak
  • The individual has issues with pain
  • The individual’s senses are overloaded
  • The individual doesn’t like change
  • Neurological development is not advanced enough for the individual to act in any other way
  • This is a learned behaviour employed to obtain the desired outcome

The truth is, we don’t know. It could be all, some, or none of the above, but it’s important to consider all of the above whilst keeping in mind change is still possible.

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One Response to “How Do We Help Children with Autism Learn to Speak?”

  1. kenesha

    11. Apr, 2011

    my son has autism but he listens carefully to instructions and follow them, he’s potty trained but he doesn’t speak in sentences. he understand whatever is said to him but this is stressing me out . I’m a young mother and its so hard to deal with him at times. I am grateful for the information provided above but am still in shock about this autism-thing i wish he was in terrible twos.

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