Written by Candice Evans from SpecialNeeds.com
Communication is key for all relationships, and the lack of speech can hinder the way children interact with their peers and caregivers. Being nonverbal is often associated with autism, although this condition can occur in children with other special needs. Finding adaptive ways to communicate and play with your nonverbal children can help possibly stimulate speech or facilitate cognitive growth.
Communication for nonverbal children is a struggle. When a child cannot verbalize his basic needs or wants, it can be frustrating for both the parent and child. Typical motor communication involves reaching for an object or taking a person to an object. Practice these motor communication skills by placing food in a clear jar and putting it within reach of your nonverbal child. Watch how your child communicates; he might tap the jar or put your hand on the jar to say he wants the food. Reinforce the motor behavior by giving your child the food.
Instead of pointing to an object in the distance, actually touch the object to make it more concrete for a nonverbal child. Pair pointing with a verbal statement with an exaggerated tone; the nonverbal child is much more likely to pick up on this communication. In general, use more visual stimuli, as visual communication is more meaningful and motivating to children with autism. Other means of providing visual cues include using communication apps or picture books that show images of a given object. Encourage nonverbal children to tap on the picture or point to it if it is something they need or want.
Play is important for all children, including those who are nonverbal. Create opportunities for tactile experiences, such as playing with play dough; use a variety of colors and review the color names as your child plays. When engaging in play time, stay close to your child (about 2 to 4 feet away) to help him stay focused. Use balls as a means of playing with others, and encourage sharing and tossing the balls to each other.
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