9 Methods to Help Kids With Autism Communicate

These innovative programs can help your child with autism improve his social and communication skills.

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Customize Your Technique

Each child learns in his own unique way. How do children with autism learn best? Here are some treatment approaches to promote lasting learning.

1. Use ABA to Reward and Reinforce

Approach: Applied Behavior Analysis.

Description: ABA is about teaching new skills and behaviors to children with autism. Individuals trained in ABA work one-on-one with children. Desired behaviors are rewarded, and disruptive behaviors are ignored. Tasks are broken down into small pieces, or trials. Successful completion of tasks and behaviors are reinforced with rewards.

2. Use TEACH to Create a Classroom That's Molded to Your Child

Approach: Treatment & Education of Autistic and Related Communication of Handicapped Children (TEACH).

Description: This regimented teaching program adapts the classroom to fit the child. The structured classroom relies on charts, organizational aids, and schedules. This approach may discourage mainstream behavior for high-functioning children, but it helps improve social, communication, and coping skills.

3. Talk in Pictures Through PECS

Approach: Picture Exchange Communication Systems (PECS) .

Description: This image-based communication system helps children with autism learn to speak, and it provides a way for nonverbal children to communicate. Children are encouraged to exchange a picture for something they want, an item or activity.

4. Go Au Naturel with PRT

Approach: Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) .

Description: This natural intervention model is one of the top treatments for autism in the U.S. Instead of targeting specific behaviors one at a time, Pivotal Response Treatment broadly takes on the following areas: motivation, responsiveness, self-management, and social initiations. Children are naturally rewarded with reinforcers that relate to the task or behavior. Improvement is shown in all areas.

5. Encourage Emotional Development Through Floor Play

Approach: Floor Play.

Description: An approach developed by child psychiatrist Stanley Greenspan. Playing with kids on the floor allows them to explore and grow. Follow the child's lead. Build on what the child does to foster more interactions.

6. Use Social Stories to Create Scripts for Learning

Approach: Social Stories.

Description: Social stories teach social skills to children with autism. Stories explain how to appropriately respond in a given event or situation. These stories are written for the individual child's needs in the first person, present tense. They help kids recognize feelings, points of view, and others' needs.

7. Use Sensory Integration Therapy to Help Your Child Make Sense of Sensations

Approach: Sensory Integration Therapy.

Description: Conducted by occupational, speech, or physical therapists. Children with autism often feel things too intensely or not enough. Sensory integration therapy helps children with autism reorganize how they perceive sensory information. One sensory activity is having children feel objects of various textures.

8. Stay in Touch Via Facilitated Communication

Approach: Faciliated Communication.

Description: This controversial technique is based on the idea that communication is blocked by a movement disability, rather than a communication impairment. A facilitator guides the individual to communicate with a computer or typewriter. Critics believe that the facilitator's ideas are communicated, rather than the individual.

9. Have Your Child Participate in Music, Art and Animal Therapy

Approach: Complementary Approaches.

Description: These techniques are fun and effective! Music, art, and animal therapy are believed to increase communication and reduce unwanted behaviors. Art therapy provides a nonverbal, symbolic way for children to express themselves. Music assists the development of language and speech. Animal therapy, like horseback riding, helps improve coordination and motor development.

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