One of the questions I get asked the most at my learning center is : “when will my child speak?”. Most of the children who come for a first evaluation at my learning center have not yet learned to speak. If you are asking yourself the same question, these 8 ways to help your nonverbal autistic child communicate can help. This post is filled with free printable learning activities that will help your child learning to communicate.
Communicating vs speaking
It is important to point out that some children are able to communicate even if they are not yet able to speak. Maybe your child is in this category. Maybe your child points to items or takes your hand to show you that he or she wants a drink, a toy or to leave a room.
Children who are not yet speaking, often don’t understand the function of communication although they are physically able to learn speech. This can keep them from developing spoken language.
What is the function of communication?
For children who don’t understand the function of communication, or the reason to speak, it is important to teach them! Your child needs to learn I do something and then I get something. For example, I point and my toy is given to me. I say “train” and I receive the train and get to play with it!
To help you get started, these are 7 ways to help your nonverbal child communicate :
1. Get down to your child’s level.
If you are sitting, sit in front of, or across from, your child. Speak to your child face to face and up close and personal. Do not expect your child to pay attention if you are speaking to them from across the room or high above them. At this point, this is most likely too difficult for your child to understand.
2. Create an adapted learning space for your child.
I love to call this space a “progress nook” or “autism playroom”. This is your child’s special space to learn, create and interact. The way you can organize a space, and the toys and learning materials in it, will impact how comfortable your child feels in the space, if he or she is calm and comfortable, if he or she is concentrated and motivated to learn. Adapting space is one of my favorite ways to help your nonverbal child communicate. If you’d like to learn more, sign up for my free 7 day email course that will teach you how to create your own progress nook at home.
(We have included Amazon affiliate links for your convenience. You can read our disclosures here.)
3. Teach your child language using toys he or she loves.
It is unlikely that your child is motivated to ask to go to bed, go to the bathroom or to work at the table. Your child is more likely to want to ask for his or her favorite toy! Start by teaching that word – whatever the item may be. Each child is different. Some children love trains (in this case here are some fabulous ways to teach your child using trains). Others love sticky tack. Teach your child to request whatever he or she loves first.
4. Make it fun by using colorful and engaging learning materials adapted for children with autism!
My free printable Fill the Fridge! food matching game has been a real hit at my learning center since I created it back in . This free printable colorful socks playdough mat is very popular too.
5. Use adapted sign language.
Adapted sign language is a powerful way to teach your child to communicate. I created this free printable signing poster to help you teach your child his or her first 9 signs so that you can get started right away.
6. Use a lot of repetition.
It may take many tries before your child learns to ask for specific items. Keep things interesting by changing activities frequently. You can work on the same request in many different ways. A game like this free printable fish matching game will help you work on the word “fish” with a variety of different photos.
7. Teach your child to point.
Pointing is a key step in learning to communicate for your child. Use the free printable pointing book to teach your child to point to different items. I have used a combination of photos of animals, objects and places to help your child learn to point. Simply go through the book with your little one, say one word to label each picture (“dog”, “pool”, “ball”, etc.) and guide your child to point to each photo when you label it. Reduce your guidance little by little.
8. Decrease mouthing behavior.
Mouthing behavior includes chewing on toys and clothing, as well as thumb sucking. Excessive mouthing behavior can make it difficult for your child to develop verbal communication. My favorite tool to help decrease mouthing behavior is the chewy tube. I order several at a time at my learning center.
Which of these 8 ways to help your nonverbal child communicate will you try today? Let me know in the comments below!
The free autism learning resources to help your nonverbal child communicate mentioned in this post :
Learn to create a Progress Nook for your child at home in 7 days
Receive 7 emails - 1 email each day - for FREE that will teach you exactly what to do, then receive emails once per week with fun learning activities for your child