Communication in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • April 2, 2019

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can find it hard to communicate with other people. They might show delay in developing language, have no language at all, or have significant difficulties in understanding or using spoken language.

Children with ASD often don’t understand that communication is a two-way process that uses eye contact, facial expressions and gestures as well as words. Some children with ASD develop good speech but can still have trouble knowing how to use language to communicate with other people. They might also communicate mostly to ask for something, rather than for social reasons.

Unconventional use of language

Many children with ASD use words and verbal strategies to communicate and interact, but they might use language in unusual ways.

For example, echolalia is common in children with ASD. This is when children mimic words or phrases without meaning or in an unusual tone of voice. They might repeat someone’s words straight away or much later on. They might also repeat words they’ve heard on TV, YouTube or videos as well as in real life.

Children with ASD also sometimes:

  • use made-up words, which are called neologisms
  • say the same word over and over
  • confuse pronouns and refer to themselves as ‘you’, and the person they’re talking to as ‘I’.

Non verbal Communication

These ways of communicating might include:

  • physically manipulating a person or object – for example, taking a person’s hand and pushing it towards something the child wants
  • pointing, showing and shifting gaze – for example, a child looks at or points to something he wants and then shifts his gaze to another person, letting that person know he wants the object
  • Using objects – for example, the child gives an object to another person to communicate.

Strategies for promoting language development in nonverbal children 

  • Encourage play and social interaction
  • Imitate your child
  • Focus on nonverbal communication
  • Leave “space” for your child to talk.
  • Simplify your language
  • Follow your child’s interests

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