How to teach an autistic child to talk?
Before we discuss how to teach an autistic child to talk, we must first understand the meaning of autism. Autism is not a popular topic in Nigeria even though studies claim that we have over a hundred thousand cases per year. There’s a case of a family who had an autistic child who loved being on his own.
One had to strain their ears to understand what the boy was saying when he spoke.
He would play the same jigsaw for hours on end. His words, when you managed to understand them, were incoherent. He was, most of the time, restless and frustrated. At first, his parents—who were uninformed about autism—assumed he was just a sensitive, introverted child. Then when he started talking and his speech was too young for a child his age, the parents were confused and unable to manage the situation.
His parents didn’t know how to teach an autistic child to talk because they didn’t even understand what it meant to have autism.
What is autism?
An autistic child is someone who has a neurological and developmental disorder. An autistic child will find it difficult to mingle with others because their social skills aren’t developed. In severe cases of autism, the child could also be struggling with speaking or communicating.
Most autistic children have rigid, repetitive behaviors. They like to do the same thing and get the same result over and over again. If you know how to teach an autistic child to talk, you can make the best out of the condition. Autism, sadly, has no cure, but an autistic child can grow up and have a good life.
Types of autism
All autistic people have three main disorders: verbal, social, and behavioral disorders. The degree of each disorder is what classifies autism into the following:
1. Classic Autism
This is the severe form of autism. People with classic autism (otherwise called ‘autistic disorder’) have obsessive interests, are verbally challenged, and have uncommon behavior and terrible social and communication disorder.
2. Asperger’s Syndrome
People with Asperger’s syndrome have very mild symptoms of autistic disorder. They can communicate properly (though they might not start talking on time as some non-autistic kids). Also, they may not have problems with their language skills.
3. Atypical Autism
It can also be called: Pervasive Developmental Disorder. This is the mildest form of autism. Basically, they only suffer from social and communication challenges.
How to care for children with autism
To care for a child with autism, you have to be able to communicate with the child. You should know how to teach an autistic child to talk. Even if that child cannot talk initially, the people around can establish a pattern of communication until the child’s speech improves.
First, you must love your autistic child sincerely. When you genuinely love this child and realize that he needs help, then you can handle him properly without getting frustrated. This is the first step towards how to teach an autistic child to talk.
• An autistic child may have difficulty concentrating. You could teach him to focus. Start with small tasks. As you increase his tasks—even if it is playing a game—when he gets fed up, have a ready distraction for him.
• You should play with him, mimic him when you play, and reward him when he accomplishes a task. You also need to develop excellent listening skills, so that he can trust you to listen and understand what he’s trying to say.
• Teach him how to calm down. When he gets frustrated because he cannot finish his task, encourage him to relax. You can either teach him to count one to ten or teach him a song he can sing and should keep singing until he gains control of himself.
• Allow him to help you when you are doing stuff around the house like washing, mopping, ironing, etc. Treat him as you would to a normal child except that you have to pay lots of attention to him.
How to teach an autistic child to talk
• A typical symptom of autism is the inability to maintain eye contact. When you want to talk to your autistic child, come close to him. That way, it is easier for him to see and hear you; he can even learn to lipread.
• Make short sentences. If possible, talk in single words like come instead of come here, up instead of raise your hands up, etc. Encourage the child to repeat after you.
• Use a lot of gestures when communicating. When you want him to kick the ball, kick and simply say, kick.
• Play a lot with the child because they learn by playing. You can tell stories about the numbers while playing with numbers. You can do the same for shapes. Clap, run around and sing in between learning. Become a child at heart yourself.
• How to teach an autistic child to talk: encourage the child to talk. Even if it is incoherent, listen raptly. Clap for him when he is done. If possible, lift him up and spin him. If there is any word you could understand while he spoke, repeat it when he is done so that he would know that you listened and heard him. That way, he can be encouraged to talk some more.
Raising an autistic child is no small responsibility. How to teach an autistic child to talk is also tasking. It will require a lot of patience. But the good news is, it is possible! Your support will help your autistic child to live a normal life.
Resource: Autism Speaks