UNDERSTANDING COMMUNICATION STAGES IN AUTISM.
UNDERSTANDING COMMUNICATION STAGES IN AUTISM.
Communication is key in every relationship, I’m sure you’ve heard that a thousand times over. In this context communication between parents and children is just as important as it is between spouses. You have a child living with Autism and you are struggling to communicate with him/her. Children with autism are usually not able to socialize or start a conversation or even ask endless questions like other children do, even if they are able to respond to you it may feel like you are doing all the work. It could be that your child can speak quite well but it’s pretty common to have a non-verbal child who doesn’t communicate.
A big part of learning about your child is realizing that he is communicating but in a non-verbal way. when no one understands or people do not take notice of what he/she does or want it becomes very frustrating for him/her and this can lead to tantrums or meltdowns.
One of the ways you can increase communication with your child is by watching for clues. However, this varies from one person to another, this involves learning what happens as he/she tries to communicate. Watch out for facial expressions and listen to the sound they make while trying to tell you what they want/need. In time you can learn to read him/her even if there’s a language problem, and this will help to avoid tantrums of anger and frustration. Communication needs to go further than just being aware that a meltdown is fast approaching, developing a proper relationship is even more important.
According to Hanen Program, a language development program for children who are slow to learn and talk, they pass through four different stages as they learn to communicate and interact. Below are four stages of communication that helps you understand how your child communicates.
- The “own agenda” stage: The child is not interested in others but plays on his own. He may use sounds or proper words but they are for his own benefit not to communicate with others. This is because they help him feel calm. Most children who have been diagnosed with ASD are at this early stage of talking.
- The “requester” stage: The child has learned that what he/she says or does has an effect on someone and produces a response. He starts to interact a little and can now communicate by pulling you toward something he/she wants.
- The “early communicator” stage: By this stage the child is using slightly longer interaction with other people. He begins to direct his speech towards others instead of himself, and may start to echo, or repeat words and phrases that he/she hears. Now he/she will begin to point at what he/she wants and glance round at you to check your response.
- The “partner” stage: The child can communicate at home using proper words and phrases, and can hold a simple conversation. However, in a new environment he/she is likely to forget his/her new skills. He/she may just repeat phrases learned by heart instead of really interacting with others, and likely to forget to take turns to speak or may seem to ignore the other person altogether. So he/she will probably need a little more encouragement until he/she feels comfortable in the new setting.
HOW CAN YOU HELP YOUR CHILD MOVE ALONG THIS STAGES.
It can seem impossible to find a way through the barriers and get close to your child, but it’s important to keep trying. Whatever your child’s ability is, it’s vital to be able to communicate with him, you need to be able to spend time with him and understand what his needs are and comfort him in distress. Do not let him spend hours absorbed in his own world.
- Join in with his activities: do not wait for your child to invite you, or expect him/her to come to you for a game. Start from where he/she is and find a way to join in. If he wants to throw toys on the floor, you can create a connection by picking them up and handling them back one at a time.
- Let him lead: Adults feel they have to prompt a child to play or suggest a game, in this case you need to follow your child’s lead, for example you could try to imitate his noises or gestures and wait for him to notice, once he does, you have an interaction.
- Give things bit by bit: when you give your child a treat or snack, encourage him/her to ask for more by handing him/her just a little at a time. Use simple language like asking “more” so he/she can pick up easily.
- Make things fun: playing with your child is more important than teaching. But you can find a way to make teaching more fun. Find out what he/she likes doing, what makes him/her smile and laugh. let’s say it’s blowing bubbles; just blow a few at a time and wait for reaction. Then blow a few more and ask “More” after a while you can wait for him/her to speak or gesture to show he/she wants you to do it again.
- Don’t do everything for him/her: it can be hard to know how much to do for your child as he/she continues to grow. Try not to do everything automatically; you sure want him/her to learn new skills and interact with you by asking for help. Do not let him/her get frustrated before it gets to that point. Show him/her what to do by breaking things down into very small steps. Do not take it far until your child is comfortable doing that step alone.
- Give praise and encouragement: Every time you get a positive response or a successful transition, shower praises on your child. If your child imitates you or tries to say something new or a new skill even, tell him/her how clever he/she is. Reinforce good behavior not the bad ones. As your child begins to learn a few new words, remember to keep things as simple as possible. You could tell your child to name his/her favorite toys or food as you hand them over to your child.
Also remember pictures can be a great help in communication with your child, because children living with ASD are very visually oriented.
In conclusion as parents with a child living with Autism, it is important to note that communication in Autism is a gradual process, do not rush your child, this may take time. Allow him/her to learn at their pace. With the right intervention you cannot go wrong.
Ike Foundation for Autism has a well equipped Early Intervention Center with professional therapists and a well loaded library with a truck load of books on Autism. We encourage parents to feel free to walk into our office at our working hours to pick a book, and these books are completely for free and they can stay with you for one month.
Source: Isabel Jones; Autism Treatment tips(Ike Foundation for Autism Library)