Topic started 3 years 8 months ago, by Atibhi
Last Post 3 years 6 months ago
by Aakanksha Chitnis - Gupte

Communication Problems in Children with Autism:

One of the key characteristics of individuals on the Autism Spectrum most certainly is a communication deficit. It is often seen that in children with Autism, a speech and language delay may occur, there could be little to no identification of the parent, absence of babbling or jargon sounds, no imitation of sounds, gestures or expression may also be seen as. Some children/adolescents develop speech and language skills via therapy and may utter a few words and eventually present with some verbal language for communication, thereby tending to be cognitively higher.

However, on the other hand there are children/adolescents who struggle with verbal language due to cognitive deficits, behavioral aspects or other comorbidities. In most cases, non-verbal children will tend to use the parent’s hand for reaching out to a desired object, or try to get it by themselves. Therefore, communication temptation, initiation is often limited.

All in all, communication problems in children with Autism are vast and are different from one child to another. You, as a parent may need to carefully analyze the major areas of communication strengths and weaknesses to best help your child at home.

Teaching Communication Skills to Children with Autism:

This section provides a strategies of teaching communication skills to children with Autism with the help of a visual table. The areas targeted are pre-linguistic skills which are considered to be

Pre-linguistic Skills (the skills required for language development)

Always hold the object or picture card at your eye level while showing it to the child, so that the child looks at the object or picture and then looks into your eyes while you say the name of the item.

Always raise your hand at the child’s eye level while asking for any object or picture from the child.

Always gain the child’s attention and eye contact towards you and then speak to the child.

Receptive Skills (understanding/comprehension)

To teach comprehension/ understanding of simple unidirectional (1 step) commands.

  • Give the child simple 1 step commands like give me the bottle/ keep the bottle in the kitchen/ open the door, etc and encourage the child to follow it. Provide proper reinforcement/ reward after the child follows 1 command correctly.

  • To hold the object at your level and tell its name to the child, repeat it 2-3 times then take the next picture, say the name 2 - 3 times. Keep both the objects in front of the child and ask him/her to pick up or point at 1 object from them. Give a reward on completing the activity successfully.

Expressive Skills: (conveying needs/wants)

To encourage production of vocal play sounds.

Teach the child to imitate vocal play sounds like animal sounds and vehicle sounds.

  • How does a dog bark? /Bow Bow/

  • What does a cat say? Meow

  • What does a cow say? Mooo…, etc.

  • How does the horn of car sound? /pip pip/

  • How does horn of train sound? /kuuu…../, etc.

  • To teach use of objects to the child using pictures or real objects

  • In what do you drink water? Glass

  • With what do you brush your teeth? Toothbrush

  • With what do you have bath? Soap, etc

Nonverbal communication of your child: The use of body languages along with voice makes it easier for the children on the spectrum to understand. Gestures and eye contact can build the foundation for language development. The usage of gestures should be done in a way so that the child can easily imitate them. For example nodding of head, point out a particular items, etc.

Response time of your child: Allow your child to talk by giving ample response time. It's human tendency to fill in language when a child doesn't respond spontaneously. But always give your child lots of opportunities to respond, even if the child isn't talking. When you ask a question see that it is answered by the child verbally or nonverbally.

Commenting about what your child does: Sometimes to engage with your child, you may direct the activities that of your child’s interest. While communicating with your child make it a point to associate vocabulary with the child's area of interest such as narrating what the child is doing, naming the things used by the child for playing so that the child not be restless. By talking about what engages your child will help her or him learn vocabulary easier, and help alleviate communication problems in children with autism. Engaging in a range of activities that are of the child’s interest such as: building blocks, ,floor activities, coloring/painting with constant stimulation from you as a parent can contribute largely to your child’s development.

Social interaction/play with your child: One of the most convenient ways for your child to learn communication is through interactive play and social interaction. This helps in teaching communication skills to children with autism as it provides opportunities for your child to develop communication initiation and is tempted to interact. Some of the activities that you can do with your child is to perform pretend play such as: doctor set/kitchen set pretend play, flipping through a book with your child, playing at the park, engaging your child with peers at the park.

Use of visual supports: Training the child with visual support can foster speech and language development. Some examples include visual time tables, pictorial representations of animals, numbers, fruits, vegetables. Using picture boards for sorting and matching can assist in developing receptive and expressive language skills.

Reward your child: Provide a reinforcement to your child when a certain target has been achieved. (Eg: your child has earned 5 stars for the day, reward them with an item of their liking). This will encourage the developing milestones to occur more often and consistently.

These are some of the stimulation techniques that can be used in teaching communication skills in children with Autism. As parents, you may employ any technique or a combination of techniques to assist your child’s language development


Ingersoll, B., Dvortcsak, A., Whalen, C., & Sikora, D. (2005). The effects of a developmental, social—Pragmatic language intervention on rate of expressive language production in young children with autistic spectrum disorders. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 20(4), 213-222.

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