Children with Asperger’s syndrome and/or autism often need treatments to help them improve their communication skills either because they do not speak well or do not speak at all. It can be the most frustrating thing in the world to want to communicate with your child but not be able to. This is obviously very frustrating for the child as well because all of their wants, needs, and feelings are going unexpressed. This can lead to acting out and other behavior problems.
Fortunately, there are methods to improve communication skills for those with autism and Asperger’s syndrome.
1. Sign language
Some people advocate teaching nonverbal kids and adults sign language. Often, they will be able to communicate with their hands what they cannot with their voice. Some parents resist this, thinking that if they teach their kid how to sign, and he or she has a little bit of language, the kid will use the sign language as a “crutch” and never make the effort to speak. This is not a valid argument, because verbal speech is a real effort for these kids, if they’re able to even do it at all. Wouldn’t you rather your child have some way of communicating his basic needs to you than none at all?
PECS stands for the Picture Exchange Communication System.
Kids are taught to point to pictures of things they want, or pictures that show how they are feeling. They are given rewards for pointing out pictures of something they want. For example, if they want a drink, they will be shown a picture of water, and if they give the picture of water to the adult, they will be given a reward.
After a while, they will learn to use the PECS pictures to communicate their needs and feelings. Usually, a binder with symbols and pictures with words that are appropriate to the child is created and carried everywhere, so that the child has a means of communication.
3. Facilitated communication
Facilitated communication is a type of communication where the person is able to type their thoughts, often with the support of another person supporting their arm. Many completely nonverbal kids are able to communicate for the first time using facilitated communication.
A lot of kids and adults will be able to type completely independently, but some cannot. Because of this, facilitated communication is a somewhat controversial method. Some people believe that the person is not actually communicating, but the people supporting them are. However, there are many people who are able to type independently – some of whom have made videos to prove this – and they seem to give validity to this method.
Another interesting device is called a Lightwriter. These have a small keyboard with a speech synthesizer. A person types into it, and their words are translated in seconds into spoken speech. It is small enough to carry wherever you go.
4. Social Stories
One very useful and widely used technique that can help kids with Asperger’s – and that doesn’t cost much money – is writing “social stories”.
Social stories are books of some sort that talk about how to do a certain social activity, and provide step-by-step instructions. Kids with Asperger’s typically need to see things visually. And they need to refer back to instructions relatively frequently. They also need step-by-step instructions. All of these components fit together very well for the idea of a social story.
You can create your own social stories or buy pre-made ones for common situations. The more your child understands what to expect, the better he or she will function. Social stories work because they take common social events and break them into the smallest of steps. Simply telling the child what will happen is often not enough though; he needs to be able to look at it. If the information is in a book, he or she can read it over and over again at their leisure, and slowly, understanding will dawn.
Kids with Asperger’s and other autism spectrum disorders often have great trouble communicating…to the point of being completely nonverbal. This is frustrating for all involved. But luckily, effective Asperger’s syndrome treatments exist to help many of these symptoms and improve the speech and communication deficits of children on the autism spectrum.