Communication is an essential part of our daily lives. Communicating with each other and our surroundings can help us to learn more about the world, express ourselves, and build genuine relationships. However, it’s important to note that every individual communicates in a different way- we can communicate verbally, non-verbally, through writing, or visually, based on our environment, context, or personal ability. As a future Speech-Language Pathologist for children with developmental disabilities, I believe that my role is to help children work through their speech, language, or communication difficulties, while also educating typically developing children on how to properly interact with their peers who may communicate in a non-typical way.
One of the main symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is social communication challenges, such as difficulties with spoken language, gestures, eye contact, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Some children with ASD may have limited speaking skills, or talk about certain topics with significant detail and specificity. Some children may have an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device. In fact, about one third of individuals with ASD are nonverbal, evidently causing a communication barrier with other children their age (“Autism Facts and Figures,” n.d.).
However, I think it is important that we teach our children (from a young age) how to effectively communicate with those who may express themselves differently, in order to promote respect and inclusion for people of all abilities. Rather than labeling kids with disabilities as “weird,” “different,” or “special,” we should be teaching our kids how to avoid ableism, or the discrimination against people with disabilities.
By having an open dialogue, parents can educate their children on disability, and avoid discrimination against those who may communicate differently. With the rise of inclusion-based programs in the school systems, it is inevitable that children will be learning with other children who have developmental disabilities, such as ASD. As children grow up, they may start to ask questions about other children in their classroom who may have different ways of communicating. Here are some tips to teach your children the beauty of INCLUSION and promoting friendship among all children.
Explain to your child that ‘communication’ does not just refer to verbally speaking. Communication comes in many different forms, such as pointing to pictures, using a talker device, etc.
Everyone has different likes and dislikes (food, hobbies, etc.), but many times we can have things in common, as well. Encourage your kids to look for those commonalities among classmates!
Be empathetic – everyone processes their sensory input differently.
Respect their personal ‘bubble’ - Not everyone likes to be touched, so give them the space they need to feel comfortable.
Be patient - When communicating, give them extra time to think about their response, rather than giving them more verbal input than necessary.
Consider teaching your children the basics of sign language, as this could be helpful in various points throughout their lives.
When communicating, use eye contact, simple phrases, and a loud, direct voice.
Here is a great video from the TODAY show featuring some of the cast members of Sesame Street, including Elmo and his friend Julia (who has autism). This is a great video to watch in order to help teach your kids how to be a good friend to someone who has autism.
Autism Facts and Figures. (n.d.). Retrieved September 19, 2019, from Autism Speaks website: https://www.autismspeaks.org/autism-facts-and-figures
Social communication in autism, explained. (2018, April 19). Retrieved September 20, 2019, from Spectrum | Autism Research News website: https://www.spectrumnews.org/news/social-communication-autism-explained/
What To Know About Being A Good Friend To Someone With Autism, According To Sesame Street | TODAY - YouTube. (n.d.). Retrieved September 20, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNms-nmhCEI