Welcome to the Louden on Autism Q & A: Volume 5. Over the course of the next few months, I’m going to be using questions submitted by my website visitors, readers, autism advocates, parents and others to shed light on some of the most important questions about autism. I receive questions every day, and I want to make sure that the answers to these important questions are being shared with all of you.
Please know that these are my opinions and my answers come from my research and my own personal experiences. Of course, each situation is different. All of us as people are different. And no two people with or without autism should be treated the same exact way.
This week, I received a question about children with autism who are nonverbal. This is a very common topic, so I wanted to address it in this week’s post.
My son is nonverbal and autistic, and I’ve tried so much to help him. There will be many days where he says absolutely nothing that’s very understandable. However, the other day he said a whole sentence. I was very surprised. Any suggestions on how to keep this progress going?
A full sentence is great! Often there are a lot of factors when someone is nonverbal, and what it means when they verbalize something. As humans, we attempt a lot of nonverbal communication before we ever become verbal, and nonverbal communication still makes up a large part of how we communicate.
With autism, we tend to experience a lot of failures communicating. We often “reach out” in one way or another and have it ignored or misunderstood. And a key part of improving communication is developing the two-way flow.
Communication is never one sided, and your reactions to it, and how you respond, can be just as important. That may mean sometimes communicating as much as you can in the way they do. So if they prefer sounds or gestures, then sometimes trying to use some of their own communication tactics back, as a way of establishing a “shared” communication.
While the eventual goal is to move them toward more typical verbal, it can help to move back to them, and then move forward as a guide, rather than standing at the endpoint and asking them to come to you. Look a lot at the situation where a whole sentence was used — had it been a good day? Did he feel particularly safe? Was there something unique that might have removed barriers on the situation? Understanding the why is hugely important.
Thanks for reading. Check back next week for another Q&A.