What About Sign Language?

Autism Q&A
560 315 Paul Louden

Welcome to the 2018 series of the Louden on Autism Q & A . As many of you know, 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 from a mother of a child who is autistic and non-verbal. She was wondering whether or not sign language is a good alternative, since she is losing hope about verbal possibilities.




I found your book very informative, especially since I have a 5 year old song who is non-verbal. I’m worried that he isn’t showing any signs of speaking, and even though he is young, I have a feeling this might be a long-term issue. Do you have any advice on whether or not sign language is a good alternative? 




I’ve heard many parents tell stories of their non-verbal children progressing to language eventually, under differing circumstances. I think it’s important to give it time and understand that each child or person learns at their own speed when it come to becoming verbal.


Sometimes it’s through work with a BCBA or OT, other times it’s just as they grow up and become more comfortable with life itself. It could always be a trust and comfort issue. There are also others who find speech to be overwhelming, but use alternatives, as you referenced in your question.


Among them is sign language, as you mentioned. There are also tools and apps that allow someone to press pictures or words, and have them spoken. This could be a great learning tool for your son. Alternatively, some people just go with writing. It’s such a classic way of communicating, that I think we often forget how easily it can be used.


There’s a wide range of possibilities, but at the age of five there’s still the very real possibility that it’s a delay and that language may be developing slowly but may still develop. This is all anecdotal of course, people I’ve met or stories I’ve heard. You’d really need to consult with someone like a speech therapist to dive into investigating what kind of delays he’s experiencing and whether it warrants certain actions to attempt to address it. But don’t give up hope! He is so young and impressionable that speech might one day come very easily.


Thanks for reading. Check back soon for another Q&A.

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