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Stimulation of language and communication in children with autism / ASD: keys to working it

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a type of neurodevelopmental disorder , of neurobiological origin and beginning in childhood.

When we talk about ASD, we are actually talking about a group of disorders with two main characteristics or symptoms:

  • Difficulties in social communication and social interaction.
  • Restrictive and repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.

In this article we focus on the first of these children’s difficulties, talking about some general guidelines that we can apply when stimulating their language and communication.

It is important to note here that, when we talk about ASD, we are talking about a spectrum of disorders , so that a five-year-old child with ASD may present very different characteristics from another five-year-old child with ASD, for example (and so on at any age). ).

By this we mean that the proposed techniques must be adapted to each child in particular, depending on their characteristics, strengths and difficulties, and not so much depending on their age.

And of course, if we need extra advice or support, it is best to go to a psychologist specialized in neurodevelopmental disorders and / or autism, as well as a speech therapist specialized in these types of disorders, to work more specifically on language.

How to stimulate language and communication in children with autism

How to stimulate language and communication in autism? We talk about some ideas that can help you, some of them recommended by the experts in psychology at the Pequitos Integral Stimulation Center .

Use a SAAC communicator

SAAC is the acronym for “Augmentative and Alternative Communication Systems” , which are forms of expression other than spoken language. As the name suggests, the purpose of these devices is to increase and / or compensate for the child’s communication difficulties.

Through them , for example, pictograms , widely used in the TEA, are used, which are images or drawings that represent reality, such as:

Themed photo cards

When it comes to stimulating the language of children with ASD, cards with pictures of topics that are of interest or like to them tend to also work well. Working from the child’s motivation favors a scenario where learning is easier to occur, and it can also be more enriching and meaningful.

Returning to the use of cards, they can be used in the following way; We show them to the child and try to get him to develop the vocabulary (words); that is to say, that he says what he sees in the image, even through individual words. From these words, we can build sentences with him , helping him.

Anticipate information

When it comes to stimulating language in children with autism (as well as working in other areas of learning), it is very important to anticipate the information, because they are children who do not tolerate changes well (they generate a lot of uncertainty) and who, in addition, they need a lot of routine.

Thus, let us anticipate the routines, the activities that they will carry out. It doesn’t have to be a long time in advance; everything will depend on the characteristics of the child and what he needs.

Normally, it is recommended to notify one day before, at least, of the most important or time-consuming activities, and a few minutes before the tasks on which we are going to work in class, for example.

Take advantage of new technologies

The use of new technologies, although we must be cautious and limit it, can also benefit children with ASD, as they are very attractive to children.

For example, there are many interactive applications to work with the language in the TEA, which are free, and that can be used from the tablet itself.

They are applications that intersperse play with challenges, and therefore favor learning; In addition, we can choose the best app based on the child’s difficulties and their strengths (there are many and very varied).

On the other hand, the computer can also be a good option, since through it the child can write, and there are applications in which the computer writes and reproduces what the child is saying. This allows the child to receive positive feedback on his learning and on his own language.

Visual support

Visual support is another of the main resources used to enhance both language and communication in children with an autism spectrum disorder.

This support allows the child to better integrate information , and in the case of language, to be able to associate it with the sound aspects of the word.

For example, if we want to teach him the word “ball”, we show him the image (ball) and reinforce the fact that he pronounces it (even if it is not exactly).

We can reinforce it in multiple ways : verbally (through a compliment), with a show of affection, a small reward, etc.

And then we come to the second essential element when working with language in children with ASD: positive reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is key when working with children with autism, and it is one of the most widely used behavior modification techniques in autism. This involves providing the child with pleasant or pleasant stimuli after the emission of a positive behavior (or, in this case, an advance in their language).

The objective of positive reinforcement is to increase the probability that these behaviors will reappear in the future (for example, if the child says a word, or an approach to it, we reinforce it so that it reappears in the future, improves its pronunciation and be consolidated as part of their learning).

And it is that, as the child is learning, each time he can associate more words with their respective images . There comes a time when the child no longer requires the image to know that a ball is a ball, for example, and to also emit this word, because he has already integrated it.

Thus, he is beginning to understand what is being said to him, and can also generalize these learnings (for example, he no longer only says these words in the classroom, but also in other learning contexts, such as the home, the park, etc. .).

Literacy as a language reinforcer

It is important to emphasize here that each child is different, just as each autism disorder is (that is why we are talking about a spectrum and not just one type of disorder). This means that each child will learn at their own pace .

However, if this literacy process can be started, it will be an important language enhancer for the child. In addition, as the child’s reading comprehension increases, his oral language comprehension will also increase.

Photos | Cover (pexels), Image 1, Image 2, Image 3 (pexels)

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