Autism and sign language : a powerful way to teach your child to communicate.
Does your child have trouble communicating his or her wants and needs? Does this create frustration and stress at home? Sign language may help!
Autism and sign language : teach your child to request with these 7 steps.
Autism and sign language step 1 : follow your child’s motivation.
Communication is one of the central challenges for people with autism. What may seem simple to us, such as asking for “juice” when your child is thirsty, is most likely very challenging for your little one. When working on building communication skills, it is crucial to follow your child’s motivation. Start by making a list of your child’s favorite things (foods, toys, activities). You will follow your child’s motivation when deciding which signs to teach first.
Autism and sign language step 2 : teach a simple way to ask for the desired item.
The goal is to give your child a very simple way to ask for what he or she wants. My favorite way to do this is to teach a simple, adapted ASL sign. Based on my years of experience owning my center for children with autism, I have put together a list of the 9 most common first signs we teach to children with ASD based on general interests and level of difficulty. You can download it for free here.
Autism and sign language step 3 : give them help if they need it.
If your child can imitate a sign just by seeing it, that’s great! If not, you may need to physically guide your child to make the sign. That is fine. In that case, physically guide the sign and then give your child the item. For example, if your child signs “juice” (the sign featured in the photo), give them the glass of juice. As soon as possible, decrease your guidance.
Autism and sign language step 4 : correct mistakes.
If your child makes a mistake, correct them by helping them make the correct sign. Make sure not to give them the item they want before correcting the sign.
Autism and sign language step 5 : reduce help to encourage independent asking.
As early as possible, reduce the help you are giving your child to make the sign to reduce the risk of prompt dependence. The goal is for your child to use his or her signs independently to communicate with you.
Autism and sign language step 6 : reinforce successes.
When your child uses a sign to ask for something he or she wants independently, celebrate! Give them the item immediately. Say “great job!”. Let them play with the item a little longer than if you had guided them to make the sign.
Autism and sign language step 7 : practice, practice, practice!
Work on signing with your child every chance you get. Every activity, every meal time and every family outing is a chance to build your child’s communication skills and to increase family fun and interaction. Don’t let these learning oppurtunities slip through your fingers! You have the power to teach your child to communicate with you.
Are you using sign language at home with your child or with the children with whom you work? I would love to hear your thoughts about helping special needs kids communicate with signs!
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