Astonishingly up to 50 percent of autistic children will never develop speech, whilst the others will develop some form of early communication skills.
However, autistic children rarely engage in effective communication.
When we think of speech â€“ language we refer to the body of words, the formations of sounds, as well as the structures and forms used to construct speech.
Communication on the other hand can occur either verbally through speech or non-verbally through the use of spoken words, gestures, signs, or by pointing to printed words or symbols.
To communicate effectively, we must firstly be able to understand why we need to communicate with others, have the desire to communicate, have somebody to communicate with, have something to communicate about, and have a means of expressing ourselves.
As children develop, they begin to explore their environment and start to understand the cause and effect around them. For example when they are thirsty they can point to the fridge or a cupâ€¦When they are wanting a cuddle or are tired they may raise both hands to picked up.
With autism sometimes this inquisitiveness is missing, the lack of interest in their surroundings and the lack of effective eye contact make learning communication very difficult.
By the time a non-verbal autistic child starts school, they may already have seen a speech therapist to establish a program to aid with the development of effective communication. The speech therapist will need to determine some appropriate objectives and goals, a base level of communication will be established by carefully observing the child within the school setting.
In certain cases it may be necessary for the child to learn a new form of communication. For example the child may cry or scream when they need something and this is their form of communication. But this is not going to be effective in a classroom full of children. There fore new forms of communication will need to be established.
Social skills stories can be used as a form of communicating with a verbal and non-verbal autistic child.
Autism social stories are short but descriptive pieces of text with appropriate pictures and images to support the story â€“ or instruction. So for example if the new skill is to help the autistic child understand the need for quiet reading at school, the appropriate autism social story would be selected and implemented.
The social skills story will pictorially show as well as the text the reason why the children are expected to be silent, who is expecting them to be silent and why also the consequence of not being quiet and the consequent or reward for being quiet.
Autistic children tend to be visual learners, which is why studies have shown that autism social stories are an excellent aid in developing good foundations for behavior and social skills for autistic children and adults. As well as excellent tools for helping develop communication skills.