For many children with autism, self-expression may be challenging. If your child has difficulty communicating with others, the following checklist may help you determine whether you should explore some communication tools that could help. These communication tools might include one, or a combination of the following:
- Sign language
- Picture communication boards
- Communication devices
These strategies (sometimes called augmentative and alternative communication, or AAC) not only help the child communicate their thoughts, feelings and ideas, but also give them the visual information that can increase their understanding of a situation or environment.
NOTE: It may be beneficial for additional members of the intervention team (e.g., speech-language pathologist, family members, educators, job coach, etc.) to go through this process. If it is determined that the child may benefit from communication supports, come together and discuss next steps.
A good way to know whether or not you child could benefit from communication supports would be to answer the questions below.
Communication Success Screening
- Does the child have less than 20 words or signs that can be understood by unfamiliar listeners? Yes___ No___
- Does the child have difficulty communicating their ideas (ex., asking for a desired item) clearly without effort on your part? Yes___ No___
- Does the child become frustrated and/or exhibit inappropriate behaviors when unable to communicate with others? Yes___ No___
- Does the child show an interest in social interaction, but lacks the verbal skills to do so? Yes___ No___
- Does the child have difficulty initiating interaction with others? Yes___ No___
- Does the child fall below developmental milestones for expressive language? Yes___ No___
- Does the child lack a reliable yes/no response? Yes___ No___
- Does the child have difficulty participating appropriately in conversations with peers? Yes___ No___
- Does the child benefit from help from a familiar communication partner to communicate effectively with others? Yes___ No___
- Is the child non-verbal and communicate most successfully using facial expression, body language, gestures and behaviors (either socially appropriate behaviors or challenging behaviors)? Yes___ No___
- Do pictures seem to increase both comprehension and expression? Yes___ No___
- Is it difficult for the child to successfully participate in meaningful day-to-day activities (ex., routine classroom activities)? Yes___ No___
If you have 5 or more YES responses, then your child might be a good candidate for communication supports and further discussion with the intervention team is warranted. If you would like to learn more about communication supports and AAC, visit the AAC 101 Learning Path on the Implementation Toolkit.