Why You Should Avoid Teaching “More,” “Please,” and “Thank You” to Children with Autism.

In last week’s video blog, I discussed 3 benefits of teaching kids with autism sign language and this week I’m going to talk about a few words to avoid when teaching a child with autism to speak or sign.

Download cheatsheet here

Now I know we all want our kids to be polite, but in the case of a child with autism, we need to be mindful of not focusing on words like “please” and “thank you” before he or she can tell us what they want and need.

And while teaching “more” as the first sign is quite common, it is another word and/or sign that I would avoid teaching altogether in the beginning.

The problem with teaching “more” and manners too early to a child with autism is that instead of using the item name (cookie) and teaching the child to ask for a “cookie,” the child might reach for cookie and say or sign “more” or “please” instead. A parent or teacher might then give the child a cookie because he used the only sign taught or nice manners but the child may not know the name of the item or be able to say it or sign it.

The other issue is that when the cookie is out of sight, the child might not have the ability to ask for it.  He might be signing “more” or “please” but you would have no idea what he wants and the child may then start to tantrum, making the situation even worse.

A third issue is when adults try to have the child put “please” on the end of all requests by prompting the child to say or sign “cookie please.” This can be a problem for a child who is just learning to speak and may make their language harder to understand.

Here’s what I recommend Instead: It’s much more meaningful and important for a child to be able to request an item, for example “cookie,” than for us to try to make them say or sign “more,” “please,”  “thank you” which are really abstract concepts and these are usually meaningless words to young, early learners with autism

Once your child can request several items, either with spoken or sign language, in this case “cookie,”(as well as pretzel, ball, movie, water, apple, etc.),  it would be more useful to work on them being specific with their requests. For example, “chocolate chip cookie” or “sugar cookie.” These words like chocolate chip and sugar are more descriptive and specific which is helpful to improve language and reduce problem behaviors.

For more information and the steps I use to teach first words to children with autism, download a free cheat sheet on this topic!

I’ll see you next week!