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Part 2 of Communicating Effectively with Autistic Children: 6 Actionable Steps Parents Can Take

Rida Zaidi

We previously spoke about imperative and declarative communication in our last blog article. Today we will be talking about some more actionable ways to communicate with your autistic child.


1.      Using Visual Aids: As you might already know, visual aids are a great resource to help your child communicate. You may want to include picture cards, drawings, sign language, or even photos you take on your phone as aids to help you in your day to day life.

2.      Staying in the “Zone of Connection”: Try to stay in your child’s personal space when communicating with them, but only as much as they will tolerate. For instance, if you are working in the kitchen, you might want to put your child in a highchair so they’re close to eye level with you when you talk to them. Try to be at arm’s length or closer when communicating with your child and include as much physical contact as your child will allow.

3.      Effective Play: Effective play practice means that children learn best by doing and experiencing things through play. While engaging in effective play with your child, don’t constantly call out their name to get their attention; you don’t want your child to learn to tune it out. To draw your child’s attention to something, say it once and wait for them to respond. Alternatively, you can use other cues like coughing, a tap on the shoulder, or suddenly talking in a silly accent to grab their attention.

4.      Work within your child’s competency level: Make sure you are not saying or doing anything beyond your child’s level of understanding. Moving on to a more challenging level of communication or social interaction before your child is ready can deplete their confidence and set you several steps back. Remember to always take your time and be patient with your child, and most importantly, to make the process fun.

5.      Non-verbal communication: To help your child with non-verbal communication, exaggerate your body language and facial expressions when you speak to them. Gesture with great emphasis and make your face interesting enough to captivate their attention. It might be fun to take selfies or pictures of your expressions to make emotional visual cue cards.

6.      Slow down your speech: Even if your child is highly verbal, you would be surprised to realise how much of what you say goes over your child’s head. Just as you did with your facial expressions and body language, try to put emphasis on important words to make sure your child is listening. You can do this but suddenly talking in a very high or low pitch or speaking in a funny accent. 


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