There’s often this idea that autistic children have extensive vocabulary and knowledge, but this is not always the case. In fact, 30% of autistic children have language regression.
Goldberg (2003) suggested that speech and language regression refers to the decline in a young child’s speech and communication abilities. We know that regression in speech, language and communication skills often occur before the age of two years. 25% of autistic children develop language at word level between 12 and 18 months of age before losing this language they have learned. As you’re probably aware this regression in communication is a diagnostic indicator of Autism.
We understand that you want your child to progress, and you struggle to watch as their frustration grows as you feel helpless. I want to provide you with tips so that you can feel empowered to support your autistic child and reduce the impact their communication skills have on the family.
- Reduce frustration by providing visuals to support their communication
- Model gestalts. We know that autistic children are often gestalt language processors. Learn more about gestalt language processors in one of my previous posts.
- Praise the ability to communicate. Focus on what they say not how they say it. E.g., good listening, nice talking.
- Provide your child with choices (using real objects to represent your choices). E.g., do you want an apple or banana?
- Your child must be motivated and have a purpose to communicate. So, ensure you use highly motivating objects for conversations
- Provide them with opportunities to communicate. We need to teach children that if they want something, there’s a process that you need to have the opportunity to ask for it. We find that if parents understand what their child wants (without them asking), the object is given to them, and so there’s no reason for your child to ask.
- There’s this idea that we need to teach children eye contact. This is not always the case. Your child is unique, we do not want to take their unique skills away.
- Model words which are concrete. E.g., words such as ‘finished’, ‘more’. You can model these several times within the day. You can use a gesture to make the word more visual (see the images below). We know that autistic children are often visual learners.
Credit: Little Dots Makaton, Polkadot World
Remember that if your child has speech, language and communication regression, it doesn’t mean your child will stay static.
It’s vital that you seek support from a qualified Speech and Language Therapist. We can tell you at what point in the communication development that your child is at. And we can support you through the process. We can provide you with an individualised plan specifically for your child to ensure you maximise their potential.
Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.