Autism – first communication techniques

When defining autism I have heard many descriptions such as: people with astonishing abilities, super brains but also isolated minds and refrigerator mums’ kids. It is always human incompetence behind such views and sometimes simple ignorance. The truth is that autistic children are different in many ways, yet absolutely typical in their emotional needs. They have their very individual preferences, expectations, dislikes, dreams and the very universal need to be accepted and loved.

It is my personal experience after years spent during therapy sessions with them, that autistic kids are perfectly capable of sensing my inner world even if the whole world thinks exactly the opposite. They do have some kind of sensor that allows them to recognise one’s intentions and refuse to join under pressure but willing to share the experience when totally accepted and honestly welcomed.

I can always expect entering the ‘Zero Zone’ in an autistic child’s world only after successfully going through the certain sequence of check-points. Those are: a) giving a child plenty of time to explore my space, the room I see him b) allowing him to touch and manipulate with objects that are available and interesting c) avoiding unnecessary contact, being non intrusive, d) joining in play on the child’s rules e) being playful and cheerful accordingly f) sharing things g) looking at each other even briefly h) praising a lot.  It is absolutely worth an effort to undergo the procedure, even if it takes months! Then comes the moment when a child can finally understand me and reads my deeply hidden emotions! It is not so rare for me to observe how the little chap suddenly cooperates fantastically all while I have had a really bad day and feel sorrow, sadness or frustration. It is like helping me to overcome that hidden person that the child sees perfectly.  It is not true that autistic children are deprived of deeper emotions and any empathy. They can communicate on a very deep levels!

Communication is the key to make friends among peers, to participate in a group and to articulate emotions. Without communication, there is no interaction. Communication is not only about using words and making sentences. It is also about making a proper eye contact and using a gesture. The last one is the simplest and most natural way of expressing need known to humans. No wonder, kids use gestures before they can even speak. It is so much easier to support autistic child with hand movement for the words such as ‘give me, open, stop, more’ rather then articulating the very complicated set of vowels and consonants that form these worlds. Let’s help our children to use communicate!

 

 1. POINTING: learning the cause and effect technique

 – it might be difficult for your child to point with his hand, therefore you can support him by using your hand to guide his finger or hand in the direction of wanted object; it is like making the first gestures together

– you can add words to your actions but not too many – one or two is enough and they have to reflect the action such as: car, blocks, juice, give me, open etc

– do not expect from your child to repeat the words, do not prompt him verbally that way; simply wait a moment expectantly and encourage him to look into your eyes as the proper eye contact can be equal to saying ‘yes, I would tell you if I had only knew how

– as soon as your child starts to point, says any sounds or looks at you – give him loud and enthusiastic ‘hurray!’ or a hug  or a very special kiss

– finish communication with the right effect i.e. give the requested object without any delay

– use this technique with highly interesting objects and create such situations by putting them far from child’s hands but still visible

– always, always teach your child with smile and very friendly attitude, your child will learn that joining you is just fun!

 

2. COPYING: learning to build the ‘joint attention’ moments 

– instead of asking your child to copy you or the way you manipulate with objects such as toys – you should copy your child! That way you’ll find out what is your child’s most preferred stimulus , you will also experience the emotion that your child is looking for

– have two sets of toys, objects that your child chooses as the favourite ones to copy her actions

– when copying try to use words but not too many; simply comment or play silly games such as ‘ouch! the ball is kicking!’, ‘looks like an elephant, no it’s a kangaroo!’

– after some time try to add actions, expand the manipulation by changing the plot and giving your child new ideas : ‘look, cars are broken!’, ‘let’s call the mechanic’

– constantly observe your child’s reactions; after all it’s not about your amusement but your child’s needs and preferences; step back when not wanted and rejected, be close and wait for child’s invitation, never be pushing into anything your child doesn’t understand or like

– copy with smile, easiness and relaxed attitude; do not expect immediate response as sometimes it takes many repetitions for a child to follow the rule

Never give up! If you feel stressed and disappointed simply go out. Take you child to the playground and go in full swing on the swing!

 

 

text : Agata Lesiowska

photo : Agata Lesiowska

All rights to the texts and photos are reserved.

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