Quick Tips on Communications for Children With Autism and Special Needs

As a pediatrician, I have been taught that the developmental progress of a three to four-year-old should include well over 500 words and a child should be able to describe things and situations in a meaningful way.

Quick Tips on Communications for Children With Autism and Special Needs https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/tips-on-communications-with-autism/

This milestone is one that all parents strive for as it is an important part of a child’s development. For parents with a child with special needs and autism, this milestone may seem at times unachievable. The delay in speech and communication skills were hallmarks of my son’s autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), and I was faced with a daily dose of frustration from a child who was not able to communicate his wants and needs. My frustrations were on par with his when I was not able to guess what it was that he was trying to say. The exchanges would frequently end up with one or both of us in tears.

As a pediatrician and researcher, I decided to try using the system of Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) when Brendan was age three, which I had come across during my research into autism and speech delay. PECS uses visual pictures and symbols as a form of communication with a child with limited verbal communications.

At its most basic, the child hands you the picture or indicates by pointing to a picture of what they want. It encourages engagement and initiates communication between the child and parent/carer. PECS is later extended over several stages over a period of time. For example, the child would learn to use two PECS symbols; the first – a symbol for  ‘I want’ and the second – the symbol for the item requested.

There is no evidence to indicate that visual aids , visual cues or the use of PECS cards would interfere with or inhibit the development of speech in later years. In fact, there is a growing belief in the speech therapists community that systems such as PECS have a beneficial impact on speech development and will reduce the frustration and anxiety caused to children by their lack of speech development. PECS can also be used as visual cues or visual schedules to display step-by-step sequences for learning every day activities of daily living such as how to brush teeth, getting dressed and using the toilet.

PECS is considered low-technology as it does not involve an external power source. Today, there are other sophisticated aids which supplement or replace speech, known as Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) aids. These require an external power source such as batteries or electricity. ACC aids permit the storage and retrieval of electronic messages, symbols, and pictures and allow the user to communicate using a speech output. For example, when the symbol or picture is touched on the AAC device, it produces a voice saying the word out loud at the same time. More than a decade later, there are now symbol-supported communication apps like Proloquo2Go which can be programmed directly into an Android or iPad.

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Quick Tips:

  • With a special needs child, you need to be ready to research and investigate all possible sources of help and support.
  • Picture card systems like PECS and AAC devices can make a dramatic difference with children with special needs including autism, speech impairment, and
  • Devise visual reward systems to use with your child to show them their progress and to offer rewards for tasks completed.
  • As far as possible, ignore difficult behaviors and concentrate on encouraging positive and cooperative behaviours.
  • Challenging behaviors, distress, and anxiety can stem from your child’s frustration at not being able to communicate.
  • Be consistent in your approach between carers when implementing an intervention.
  • Challenging behaviors, distress, and anxiety can stem from your child’s frustration at not being able to communicate.

Website: www.paedsdoc.co.uk
Twitter: @mayng888
Book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Journey-Brendan-autism-mother-paediatrician/dp/1912575078/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1529740894&sr=8-1&keywords=a+journey+with+brendan

This article was featured in Issue 87 – Building ASD Awareness and Communication

May Ng

Professor May Ng, MBBS (Hons), FHEA, FRCPCH, MSc, LLM, PhD is a Consultant Paediatric Endocrinologist and Honorary Associate Professor at the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom. She completed her undergraduate degree under full scholarship at University of Sydney, Australia and her pediatric training in Australia and the United Kingdom. She was the recipient of the prestigious UK Medical Research Council Fellowship and completed further training to obtain a Masters in Medical Science and PhD degree in pediatric endocrinology and diabetes. Dr Ng also holds a Master of Laws degree and is active in medico-legal work. She is Chair of the UK Association of Children’s Diabetes Clinicians, Officer for British Society of Paediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes and Training Advisor for Royal College of Paediatrics. She is in the Diabetes UK Council for Healthcare Professionals and Online Learning Committee for European Society of Paediatric Endocrinology. She is an active researcher with over 150 publications and has presented at more than 150 scientific meetings. She serves on the editorial board for several international journals including as Editor-in-Chief and as Associate Editor and is a regular invited referee for many high impact journals. She is a clinical lead of multiple national award-winning initiatives such as University of Liverpool Alumni Award 2020, Diabetes UK Mary Mackinnon Award 2018, winner of 2015 Diabetes Quality in Care award, Highly Commended runner up for Diabetes Team of the Year National BMJ Awards 2015, finalist for the HSJ Clinical Leader of the year 2015 and finalist in the UK Asian Woman of Achievement Award 2016. She is also a book author of ‘A Journey with Brendan’ documenting life with her son with autism as both a mother and pediatrician. For more information visit my website. Twitter @mayng888.