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A Guide to Communication Tools for Autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that affects the brain’s ability to process information and communicate with others. It can cause significant social, behavioural and educational challenges for individuals and their families. This guide explains how autism communication tools can help individuals with autism.

What are Communication Tools for Autism?

Communication tools for autism are used to help people with autism communicate more effectively.

Communication tools for autism include visual communication boards, picture exchange systems (PECS), and Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices.

Types of Communication Tools

The first step to understanding the various types of autism communication tools is to be familiar with the different types of autism. There are three major groups, which can be further broken down into subgroups:

  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability affecting a person’s communication and interaction skills. ASD includes autistic disorder, also called classic autism or Kanner’s syndrome, Asperger syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, and Rett syndrome.
  • Childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD) causes an early loss of certain skills among children developing normally until sometime between ages 2 and 4. Children with CDD may first lose their speech and language abilities, followed by social skills such as playing pretend games or making friends.

Tips for Working with Autism and Communication

When working with a person with autism, it is important to understand the communication needs of that individual. Be patient, and don’t expect immediate results; some people with autism may need more time to respond than others. It is also helpful to know what types of communication tools work best for that individual, and any strategies for helping them communicate more effectively in certain situations.

Use visual aids when possible! This can be done by giving them signs or symbols they can access or showing them pictures or images, which will help you communicate with them better.

Be careful when using verbal prompts, though, because sometimes people get so used to hearing these prompts repeatedly that they start ignoring everything else said.

Importance of Communication Tools for Autism

Communication tools can be an invaluable aid for people with autism, helping them communicate their needs, wants, emotions, and feelings to those around them. A person who has difficulty communicating verbally may have the ability to use a communication tool like a picture exchange system (PECS) or sign language. These tools give that person an alternative way of expressing themselves in situations where speaking out loud may not be possible or appropriate.

A PECS board is usually made up of pictures representing specific words, phrases, events or objects relevant to the child’s life. The child then selects one of these pictures using their dominant hand and shows it to the trained caregiver, who reads aloud what was selected.

Sign language is another useful tool for nonverbal individuals on the spectrum because it allows them to communicate their thoughts regardless of whether they have ever received formal training before in sign language. When used together with speech therapy sessions conducted by speech pathologists who specialise in working with children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), parents can greatly improve their relationship with their child while also improving communication skills.

What to consider while purchasing autism communication tools?

  • Consider the child’s age and developmental stage: Different types of autism communication tools may be appropriate at different ages, so it is important to get an idea of where your child is developmentally before making a purchase. For example, children with more language skills may benefit from word-by-word prompting devices such as picture boards or augmentative communication devices, whereas those who do not yet have considerable verbal skills might be better suited for gesture systems such as Makaton symbols or sign language visual supports.
  • Consider the child’s interests and abilities: You should also take into account what types of activities are most appealing to your child when considering which type of tool would be best for them; for example, a child who loves music may respond well to an instrument like an electronic keyboard while another who enjoys interacting with people might prefer using video messaging apps on their phone instead. 

Author name – Grace