Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Autism and Communication - Staying Connected to a Meaningful Life

Autism is a neurologically-based disorder that affects verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction. Autism is different for every person. No two people with autism are exactly the same. Some people with autism have difficulty with their mobility such as controlling their arms, legs or mouth muscles. And, others have difficulty with cognitive skills-like reasoning, learning or memory. The problems may range in severity and may even change over time.

Research shows that autism occurs four times more often in males than females. Autism is found in all racial, ethnic and social backgrounds and families. Early signs of autism can be seen by as early as age 12 months and diagnosis can be made as early as 24 months. Early identification and treatment of autism increases the chances for improving problem skills and improves quality of life.

There are several different types of disorders in the autism "spectrum" also known as "autism spectrum disorders" or "pervasive developmental disorders."

o Autism disorder

o Asperger syndrome

o Childhood disintegrative disorder

o Rett syndrome (in girls)

o Pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified

Although each person with autism is different, there are some common communication and social characteristics that most exhibit. These communication and social interactions will vary in severity and may be altered as the person grows and develop in the various stages of his life.


o Delayed language

o Not speaking or very limited speech

o Difficulty expressing basic wants and needs

o Limited communication to share interests with others

o Poor vocabulary development

o Problems following directions

o Problems finding objects that are named

o Repeating what is said (echolalia)

o Difficulty understanding nonverbal communication, such as gestures and facial expressions

o Problems answering questions

Social Interaction

o Inappropriate eye contact

o Becoming overly focused on certain objects or topics

o Difficulty building friendships

o Dislike being held or touched

o Inappropriate behavior such as crying, laughing or becoming angry for no known reason or at the wrong time

o Poor play skills

Other Social Interaction

o Problems dealing with change

o Using objects in unusual ways

o Feeding difficulties-accepting or refusing only selected foods or textures

o Over or under sensitivity to sounds

Speech and language services are important for people with autism at every age. Speech and language treatment can help people with autism develop effective speaking, listening, reading and social skills. At all ages, appropriate communication and positive social interactions are important for:

o Relationships with family, peers, friends and community

o Inclusion in social activities

o Success in school or at work

o Reducing behavior problems

o Emotional well-being and self-esteem

Ways to Stay Connected

As a caregiver of a person with autism, there are ways to help your loved one stay connected through communication. Finding the best way for the person with autism to express his thoughts, wants and needs to others is very important in helping him stay connected to those around him. Here are few ways to help in improving communication and social interactions:

o Increase awareness of and respond to all communication attempts. In order to accomplish
this, parents and other caregivers must begin to interpret all actions and behaviors as having communicative intent or communicative meaning.

o Use picture communication boards or books of familiar activities and people. Create a
communication board or book to help the child with autism to communicate needs, feelings, or desires.

o Use music therapy such as singing songs while during routine tasks. When washing body parts you could sing..."this is the way we clear our ears, clean our eyes, clean our cheeks."

o Provide positive supports and learning opportunities. Identify and arrange communication
opportunities in natural contexts throughout the child's day. Manipulate the environment! Create circumstances which encourages communication.

o Encourage interactions by providing individuals with autism the opportunity to socialize in
environments with age-appropriate peers. The experience of participating in a social group is essential to developing social-communicative skills.

o Teach children with autism that their actions or words have distinct results associated with
them. The child must learn that communication can be used to influence the environment.

By employing these communication strategies, the result is an increase in a child with autism understanding and use of communication. These strategies can help reduce the result of challenging behaviors and help the individual stay connected to the world around him.

References: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Speech-Language Pathologists: Helping People with Autism

Fielding, Linda. Autism: Communication and Behavior Links

Denise Moore Revel is a Leading Speech Therapist that specializes in improving communication skills in children. Visit her website at http://www.AsktheSpeechTherapist.com and sign-up for the FREE online newsletter for tips, ideas, and strategies on how to improve communication skills.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Denise_Moore_Revel

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