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ASD Language development

Should you use simple language or talk normally to you child with ASD?

April 15, 2014

Language is difficult for your child with ASD. It is important to give him a clear target when you want him to try to say his initial words or first sentences.

Last week I was with a boy and we were trying to help him to begin to use sounds and partial words to communicate. He loved physical games – particularly being spun around. The person playing with him was using a lot of language and it wasn’t clear what the target word or sound was supposed to be.

She was saying things like, “Ready steady, go. Here we go around and around. Wheeee! Let’s do it again! Are you ready to spin around? I’m picking you up, up and here we go!”

Her excitement was excellent but there were too many words, no clear target word, and very little space for the child to vocalize.

After she received some training she played the same game with him. This time she was emphasizing the word spin. During the spin game she was saying things like, “Spin! Spin! Let’s go for a big Spin! Spin!” Then, when she began to pause in the activity it was clear to him that the word for the activity was SPIN. He had a target word to attempt. A few minutes into the activity he said “nnn” for the first time. She was listening for the target word spin so she was able to reward his attempt. “You said ‘nnn’ for SPINNNN! Yeah!” and she spun him around.

The same thing applies when you are helping a child develop simple sentences. Rather than over talk within the activity, keep it simple and initially emphasize the sentence you want your child to hear. You might say, “I want a spin!” and emphasize that sentence. It doesn’t mean that you will never occasionally say another sentence while spinning – just be sure that you highlight and emphasize the sentence you want your child to say. Say the target sentence from his point of view. Model “I want a spin!” rather than “You want a spin!” as he is initially likely to copy you. When he is consistently copying the target sentence you can stop modeling it and pause within the spin game, using only silent anticipation and give him the chance to start saying, “I want a spin!” spontaneously. If he doesn’t say it after five or ten seconds, then you can model it to him again or simply give him the spin anyway.

It’s not important that your child say the target word or sentence every time. It is important that you give him a clear target and a lot of opportunities to say it when he is motivated.

A child who is practicing expressive language will benefit tremendously if you simplify your language.

So, in conclusion, should you use simple language or talk normally to you child with ASD?

When you are helping your child to practice his expressive language use simple language. However when you are explaining something to your child or sharing something conversationally (receptive language), speak to your child in an age appropriate manner. Treat your child, even your nonverbal child, as if he understands everything.

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