The ability to communicate allows us to interact with the world around us, make personal connections with others and learn new things. However, many children with autism often demonstrate significant challenges in the areas of communication and social interaction. These challenges can range from mild to severe, depending on the cognitive abilities of the child. Many children with autism have difficulty effectively using language for the purposes of communication. Some children may be nonverbal and unable to speak, some may have speech that is non-functional and others may have extensive vocabularies and are able to talk about certain topics in great detail.
The American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) states that communication is the essence of human life and all people have the right to communicate to the fullest extent possible. Communication is about expressing who you really are as a person. For children with autism, communication is about having the ability to show people their unique personality, beliefs, feelings and ideas but in order to be successful they must have the right tools and support to develop functional communication skills.
There are many communication solutions and tools available for children with autism. The best treatments begin early and require family involvement. The goal of intervention should be to improve useful and appropriate communication skills. Current research tells us that children with autism often possess many strengths that allow them to be successful users of symbol and text-based communication strategies. The best communication strategies must match the child’s current skills, address the communication goals for the future and meet the needs of the entire family.
Challenges for ASD
Communication is a process by which we assign and express meaning in an attempt to create shared understanding. For many children with autism, however, communication can be challenging. In this section you will learn possible signs of communication difficulties and how to get started to address those issues.
Effects on Behavior
Behavior is communication! For individuals with autism, behavior may be the only means by which they have to communicate a need or frustration. In this section you will find information on the communicative functions of behaviors as well as strategies to help individuals with autism express themselves and understand their environment through the implementation of visual supports.
There are many myths around communication and individuals with Autism. Many of those myths concern the use of Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) systems. In this section you will learn more about the truth behind myths such as “AAC inhibits speech” and “Some speech = no need for AAC”.
Early Language Learning
Speech (i.e. articulation, voice and fluency) and language (i.e. semantics and pragmatics) typically develop following specific milestones. Delays in either or both of these areas may impact a persons ability to effectively communicate with others, interact and learn. In this section you will find more information about early language learning (i.e. ages 0-5).
Augmentative and Alternative Communication – AAC
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) includes all forms of communication that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. Everyone uses these communication strategies (i.e. gestures, point to pictures, or write) to communicate. People with speech or language problems, however, may need to use additional AAC supports to enhance communication.
Strategies and Solutions
There are several communication strategies and supports to aide communication for individuals with Autism. In this section you will find information on voice-output systems, picture exchange communication systems (PECS), sign language, positive communication environments, partner augmented input, and chain of cues.