Communicating with a child on the autism spectrum can be challenging, even if they’re high-functioning. This is a difficult challenge to overcome, but with the following tips, you can make communication a little easier.
1. Work with a therapist to reduce aggression
It’s hard to communicate with someone in an aggravated state, especially if they don’t know any other way. Kids with autism often display aggressive behaviors because they don’t know how else to express themselves when they’re frustrated or overloaded by sensory input. If their behaviors are too disruptive or harmful, you can teach your child more effective ways of communicating by working with a therapist.
Currently, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is a popular option because it teaches kids to express constructive behaviors and stop disruptive behaviors. They’ll learn ways to express themselves that don’t involve negative or hurtful actions, like biting, hitting, or kicking. This will make it much easier for you to understand their needs.
2. Exercise patience
Infinite patience is an absolute must when you have a child on the autism spectrum. Communication is going to be challenging. Even when they’re making progress it will never be perfect. Your patience ensures that they won’t get discouraged by seeing you upset or frustrated. Patience also allows you to continue working with your child even when things get tough.
When communicating, keep in mind that kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) take longer to process information, so you might need to speak more slowly and share information in chunks. For instance, pause between points and make sure your previous communication was understood before moving to the next.
3. Don’t react to irritating behaviors
Some kids with ASD learn to act out to get attention. Rather than reacting to these behaviors, ignore them so your child doesn’t get the idea that they can get attention through bad behaviors. Instead, make it a point to spend more time with them and show them that they don’t need to misbehave to get your love, time, and attention.
4. Learn their language
It’s idealistic to expect your child to adopt a completely new way of communicating with you. For instance, you may want them to stand quietly and ask you for something they need, but they might want to wave their hands in the air to get your attention.
As a general rule, if it’s not disruptive or dangerous, allow them to develop and use their own forms of communication. Learn their language. You can always add behaviors to their communication toolbox, but try not to take away their existing tools.
5. Spend more time with your child
All kids feel better about communicating with their parents when they feel appreciated and loved. Kids who feel ignored and rejected aren’t likely to share anything with their parents, and kids with autism are no exception.
Spending more time with your ASD child can go a long way toward earning their trust and opening up the lines of communication. Some kids on the spectrum need a good reason to share if they don’t already have a strong bond with their parents.
The more you show them you care, the more likely they’ll be to continue communicating their thoughts and feelings with you.
6. Do physical activities together
Kids on the autism spectrum tend to have short attention spans, so if they don’t want to spend time doing tedious art projects or things that require focus, do simple physical activities together. Get on a trampoline in the backyard, run around with them, play tag, or go to a play place with a bounce house. Giving them some relief from the stress of always having to focus during the day will support your relationship, and they’ll feel more relaxed when you try to communicate.
7. Don’t force something that doesn’t work
You’re probably going to try a lot of different strategies and methods to improve your child’s communication skills. This is a good thing, but don’t force something that isn’t working. Your child might not respond well to certain techniques, and you can’t force them to make it work. When this happens, move to the next strategy.
Improving communication is an ongoing process
Chances are, you’ll be working on improving communication skills for quite some time. It’s an ongoing process, so don’t worry about achieving any kind of end goal. The only goal is to help your child continually progress from wherever they started.