COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES to support children, adolescents and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Communication difficulties are one of the core symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder. There are a range of COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES we can use to support children, adolescents and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder:

Commence by getting the person’s attention (e.g. using their name)
Offer choices if the person doesn’t respond to an open ended question (e.g. “Would you like to go to the beach or the park?” if they don’t respond to “Where would you like to go?”)
Messages should be short and simple (e.g. “John, shoes on” rather than “John, it’s time to go to school. We’re running late so you need to quickly put your shoes on.”)
Messages should be supported with visuals (e.g. body language, gestures, objects, signs, pictures, written words)
Use pauses and wait time in between messages to allow the person to process the information (e.g. “Mary, please stand up.” “Mary, please get your bag.” )
Need to use literal language to avoid confusing the person (e.g. instead of sarcastically saying “Great!” after John has spilled a bottle of ketchup, you could say “John, use this cloth to wipe up the ketchup.”)
Inform the person of any changes (e.g. “Mary, we’re not going to play cricket because it’s raining.”)
Check for comprehension (e.g. “John, show me how you’ll pack your bag.”)
Avoid abstract language (e.g. idioms, multiple meanings, metaphors and sarcasm)
Talk about one idea at a time (e.g. “Mary, we’re going to build a sandcastle.”)
Instructions should be broken into small steps (e.g. get the tooth brush > get the tooth paste > unscrew the lid of the toothpaste > lay the lid on the counter top)
Order, predictability and structured routines help the person’s understanding (e.g. schedules, activity checklists and calendars)
Need to sequentially list events to help the person understand (e.g. “John, first work and then iPad.”)

Speak clearly and slowly
Teach the person appropriate ways to communicate messages (e.g. “I need a break.”)
Reduce visual and noise distractions (e.g. turn off the radio or TV, close the curtains or shut the door, or move to quieter surroundings)
Allow breaks to prevent overload
Timers can help the person with time management
Eye contact should not be forced
Give the person a variety of communication methods (e.g. signing, visual strategies, devices)
If the person doesn’t understand, repeat or rephrase your message with more visual prompts and cues (e.g. “John, which one?” while showing him pictures of a park and beach)
Establish a consistent approach that can be used by everyone
Support the person by being calm, patient and reassuring

For more information on how to help people with Autism Spectrum Disorder communicate, download the free resources Using Visual Communication Systems to Promote Communication and Supporting and guiding communication development of students who are pre-intentional and intentional communicators

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