Assistive Technology, Autism Related, communication, communication strategies, conversing with an autistic child

Exploring the Room of Communication Strategies. How to converse with your child.

How to converse with your child? You’re probably thinking-well, I speak with my child every day. But are you speaking to them the way they understand? Is your child responding?

Though I have a blog on how  Communication Boards are effective, unfortunately they are not easy to use in having daily conversations.

Yes, there is a method in which you need to learn how to speak to your child. If you just rambled off a paragraph to them, you probably lost them some where in the second sentence. It’s true. Have them repeat what you just said and they will look at you like you just spoke a foreign language to them. They aren’t deliberately not listening to you-they just have a hard time processing too much information.

Here’s a conversation I can have with my daughter while I’m preoccupied with doing something else. Shouting across the room. “Caitlin, can you please go in the pantry and get out the bread crumbs and place them on the counter for me please?”

Same conversation with Landon. “Landon come here for a moment.” Once I’ve got his full attention and we have eye contact “I need you to do a favor for me please.” “Can you open the pantry door, find the container of bread crumbs and place it on the counter?” Then he will look at me like he is lost. I say again, “In the pantry.” He repeats what I just said. “Find the bread crumbs.” He repeats what I just said. “And place it on the counter.” Then maybe after a few minutes he says, “I can’t find it.” I say, “Landon, it is on the bottom shelf.” He repeats what I just said. “Next to the container of onions.” Then he’ll say, “Oh, I found it.” I say, “Good, now place it on the counter.” He places it on the counter. What could have been done in minutes took longer than it should because I had to explain each process of a simple task.

You may have to repeat yourself multiple times, you may also find yourself feeling frustrated, and sometimes you just say, “Forget it, I’ll do it myself.” These are normal reactions so don’t feel bad and wondering if you are doing something wrong. It takes practice.

But you would think that all the practice I have at this, that I should be a pro by now, but I’m not. I have in MY brain that he has been in this kitchen many times cooking meals, he should know where the bread crumbs are.  Landon’s brain listens to what I told him, but if he opens that pantry and doesn’t see the bread crumbs right in front of him, he gives up. But, once in awhile I find out that I was actually out of bread crumbs and it was my fault.

Here is the method I use to interact with those on the spectrum:

  • First, I always get into their line of eye contact.
  • I use their name in the first sentence, that way they know I’m talking to them.
  • I keep my sentences brief and to the point.
  • I patiently wait for their response-they process information very slowly and they have a hard time with their responses. Be respectful of this for they will get very flustered if you don’t spend the time waiting for their response.
  • Watch their body language and non verbal communication cues.
  • Be mindful of triggers and external environment noise.
  • Asking them about their favorite hot topic may get their attention.

Now, I’m going to flip something on you. What to expect if you know someone with a disability and they come up to you and initiate a conversation. First of all they are approaching you because you are someone they are familiar with and they have something very specific they need to ask or tell you about.

In Landon’s case, if he saw you in a setting and then you happen to be in another setting, he will say, “I saw you last week sometime at Walmart with your daughter Cassandra and your grandson, Luke and your mother Kathy.” With Landon, he has to get all the formalities out of the way. He needs to ask about you, your family, if meeting you the first time he wants to know if you are married, kids, how old they are, birthdays, anniversaries. He will get to know you in less than 5 minutes and he is done. If you are in our home, he takes out everything he owns and shows it to you.  Individuals on the spectrum don’t handle long spans of communication well. They say what’s on their mind and they are done.

Now, there is also an exception to this. I have one dear friend with Autism that will ask you question after question after question. She is one that is hard to leave in a proper way without getting her somewhat upset. Sometimes I do well with her and other times, I completely blow it. In these situations, you do the best you can. I just give these individuals credit for trying to socialize.

The National Autistic Society provides helpful communication tips-maybe I need read and pay attention better to this.

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