These 4 Tips Can Forever Change How Your Child with Autism Makes Conversation
Have you and your child ever had situations like these? You are wearing a striped shirt. Your daughter asks you, “Are you wearing a striped shirt?” Earlier in the day, you tell your son that the family will go to the park. Later, he asks you, “Where are we going today?” Your son is watching his friend on stage dancing. He asks you, “Who is dancing?” Why is it that kids with autism often ask questions he or she already knows the answers to, and what can you do to help? REASON #1 You may be using an overabundance of questions (“How is/was ___?”; “What did/do ___?”; “Where is/was ___?”) that your child is copying. SOLUTION: Model language using more statements, rather than relying on questions. This way, your child learns how to make comments. Instead of this: “Suzy, what design is on my shirt?” “Suzy, where are we going later?” “Suzy, do you like your ice cream?” Try this: “Suzy, look at my beautiful striped shirt!” “I can’t wait to go to the park today, Suzy.” “Cookie dough ice cream is my favorite flavor.” REASON #2 You and other adults too often initiate conversations with him or her through questioning. SOLUTION: Use comments to start a conversation, and you can cue your child to do the same. Instead of this: “John, what design is on my shirt?” “John, where are we going later?” Try this: “John, say, ‘Mom, that’s a pretty striped shirt you’re wearing!” “John, say, ‘Today when we go to the park, I’m going to try the big slide.”
REASON #3 Your child believes that questions are the only type of cue for the other person to respond, and statements are to remain stagnant. SOLUTION: Help your child see how he or she can build upon your statements, and vice versa. Instead of this: “Jen, what did I do to your toast?” “What did you draw in art class, Jen?” Try this: “Jen, uh-oh…I burned your toast. Say, ‘Mom, it’s ok. Just put another slice in the toaster.” “Jen, say, ‘Mom, I drew this picture in art class.’” Then you say, “Hmm…it looks like a flower.” REASON #4 Children with autism have a tendency to ask questions that require factual responses instead of answers that evoke curiosity, novelty, or opinion. SOLUTION: Respond to your child’s factual questions with statements that get them to think more deeply about the subject. Examples: Child: “Dad, what do people in China ride instead of cars?” Dad: “I wonder if people in China would rather drive a car everyday than ride a bicycle. You can find out for me by asking our neighbor, Mr. Chang, for his opinion because he used to live in China for many years.” Child: “Is Alaska the 49th state that joined the United States, Mom?” Mom: “It’s interesting that Alaska is the second newest state to join the 50 United States, and it’s also interesting that Alaska is not attached to the United States.” RICHER COMMUNICATION AWAITS! Your child’s deliberate questioning to which he or she knows the answers is a form of self-stimulation and reassurance. Bringing your child out of his or her safety zone toward flexibility and curiosity will lead to more enriched conversations. Feel free to send me your comments (and questions!) after you give these ideas a try!