#009: Getting Kids with Autism to Talk or Talk More

One of the questions that I’m most faced with is, how do you get nonverbal children to talk, or to talk more? The first thing you need to understand is that most people’s definition of nonverbal is inaccurate.

Everyone is verbal… even if they’re not necessarily vocal. If a child can cry or reach for things, they are being verbal. And I get excited if they can say even a few words or make a few sounds because I do know how to get children to become more vocal using verbal behavior. And it’s imperative that your child is able to develop verbal language skills—it’s the easiest way for both child and parent or professional to communicate.

I’m going to share information with you that hopefully will set you on the right path. I understand that teaching a child language skills sounds like a difficult undertaking, but some of the first steps are rather simple. For example, it’s very important that your child drinks from a straw or an open cup, as it encourages development of their oral motor system. That means sippy cups, bottles and pacifiers are OUT!

I also advise you to do a full assessment on your child. It can be a quick, ten minute assessment like the one I include in my book, The Verbal Behavior Approach. It’s a one page assessment form that’s great for both parents and professionals to use to gauge where your child is at.

Of course, speech might not always be your number one priority. A dangerous problem behavior would certainly take precedence over speech, but good news: developing verbal communication skills is known to reduce problem behaviors!

Ultimately, if your child is able to utter just a couple of words it will make life much easier for the both of you. Remember, our goal is for children with autism to lead their happiest, safest lives, and verbal language skills are very much a part of the process.

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Shareable Quotes:

  • I believe each child should be reaching their fullest potential and that includes, if at all possible, developing vocal language.”
  • …the good news is that developing speech and a way to communicate your needs and wants almost always will reduce problem behaviors.”
  • “…we want to think in terms of syllable length, not sentence length.”
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