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Early Communication Skills in Children with Autism

Communication looks different for children with autism. ABA therapy can help.

Communication looks different for children with autism. ABA therapy can help.

It is a basic desire for parents: to understand the needs and wants of their children. Our kids also want to be understood – just as we all do. This is why the development of early communication skills in children with autism is one of the most challenging pieces of the disorder.

The speech of children with autism is characterized by repetitive or rigid language, narrow interests, uneven language development and poor nonverbal communication skills. Our challenge as parents is to interpret our children’s unique ways of expressing themselves while also teaching them more effective ways to communicate. Step by step, the early communication skills in children with autism improve with effective ABA therapy, knowledgeable support professionals and patient family members.

More characteristics of early communication skills in children with autism

Language ability in children with autism varies widely. Some young people may be verbally fluent, especially around a subject of interest. Others may still be learning how to form words aloud, relying instead on gestures or technology to express their needs for them.

Many children with autism have trouble listening to and making eye contact with others. They may not focus on an object or person when directed to, and their body language may seem atypical. They tend to have difficulty expressing their needs and feelings, or understanding others.

How can ABA therapy help?

Numerous studies have shown that ABA therapy produces clear improvements in early communication skills in children with autism. The goal of a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, or BCBA®, is to uncover the function, or reason behind the child’s language, and then create an individualized plan to teach the different parts of language under the right conditions. The therapist might focus on some of the following behavioral classifications of language:

  • Receptive language, or hearing and responding to the words of others
  • Intraverbal language, or conversational speech
  • Tact, or identifying and labeling objects
  • Mand, or requesting a desired object
  • Textual, or reading words

The methods that BCBAs use to address the early communication skills in children with autism are thoughtful and developmentally appropriate. Because the goals designed by the BCBA are measurable and achievable, negative behaviors are reduced, while positive behaviors, such as communication, eye contact and paying attention, are reinforced. Along the way, children begin to see that the learning environment is a fun, safe and rewarding place to try new methods of communication.

Contact us at Trumpet Behavioral Health with questions about early communication skills in children with autism.