How To Communicate With An Autistic Child

When children are on the autistic spectrum, one of the issues they may have (although this is not always the case) is communication. Some are non-verbal, and therefore can’t communicate using words at all. Others have a wide vocabulary, but they can’t process emotions and don’t understand the nuances within words and phrases that give them their true meaning.




Because of these issues, communicating with an autistic child can be difficult. It’s not, however, impossible, as many parents of autistic children will be able to tell you. Here are some useful tips for communicating with an autistic child, whether your own or someone else’s, that will help hugely. 

Get Visual

If the child you want to communicate better with is non-verbal, images and pictures can work wonders. The child can use the cards to tell you want they need or how they’re feeling, meaning you can engage with them better and help them more. These pictures can be on cards, or you can download specialist apps that will give you even more scope and offer a great level of understanding. 

On top of this, using visuals may, in some cases, help the child to form some simple words, although this is not something that can be guaranteed and is ideally left to the experts to explore further should it be necessary or possible. They might recommend DIR model autism floorwork, for example, which can boost communication levels in some cases. 

Say What You Mean

One of the traits of autism is that those who have it are often very literal. Idioms, sarcasm, or other types of speech that you might normally use in everyday conversation will be confusing to a child with autism, and will not result in great communication. 

For the best results, and to engage in conversation, speak plainly and say exactly what you mean. This might be difficult to master at first, but the more practice you have the better you will be, and the easier it will be to communicate with the autistic child. Take a moment before you say anything to think about the words you are intending to use. What message are they conveying if you strip them down to their literal meaning? If that’s not the message you want to convey, try to word your thoughts in a different way that will make more sense. 

Use Animals

Sometimes trying to communicate with other people can simply be too overwhelming for a child with autism. It’s confusing, there is too much stimulus, and not understanding or being understood is always upsetting. 

This is where animals can help. If you want to communicate better with a child who has autism, it may well be that the presence of a dog, cat, small rodent, or even a fish – anything that can’t talk back but that has a calming presence – can be enough to make the difference. Animals are accepting of all people, no matter what their condition might be, and that can be a wonderful thing for an autistic child – it can be enough to help them when it comes to their own communication efforts.

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