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May11

Everybody Communicates, Let’s Just Change How

How does your child communicate? A lot of people will refer to children with autism as “non-verbal” meaning they can’t talk in recognisable words.They might then explain that they use signs, or pictures or other augmentative means. Someone just sent me an article about a girl who had supposedly just ‘started” communicating via a keyboard – “She had Found Her Inner Voice

The truth is, she always had that inner voice, and had been expressing herself through her actions all her life. What she had found was a way to communicate that the rest of the world could be bothered to understand. Which is a bit like saying foreign nationals aren’t really communicating when they use their mother-tongue. It is only when they buckle down and learn English that we should start taking them seriously and pay attention to their needs. And that is not OK!

Because with Autism – the person is always there. What you might see as inappropriate behaviour is probably that individual’s way of addressing a sensory need or creating a reaction that gets their needs met.

For example – So called attempted “Bolting” Behaviour:
Liam and LisaWhich actually means:

“I’ve had enough of you talking and I would really like to go back to the car now”

The typical child would be whining and saying “Mummeee” but my autistic son uses actions that he has learned via cause and effect:  If I do this, Mummy shuts up and puts me in the car to go and get a hamburger and coke. If I wait mutely, she just keeps rabbiting on. My choice? BOLT!

The solution: Replace the drag, pull and bolt with appropriate communication.

Grace App I Want a Burger

How do I do that?

See that pink thing in my hand, that’s my iPhone. It is with me ALL the time. So I open the Grace App and get Liam to select what he wants, then I go into the Sentence Makers folder and add on Wait.

We read the sentence together with a Point and Pause when Liam says each word.

Then I wait for ten seconds and when he is quiet and no longer tugging my arm – go straight to the car.

Ten seconds is LOOONG time in kid world. You can practice increasing the wait intervals in a structured trial some other time.

Reward the prompted appropriate communication. Not the inappropriate “Behaviour”

The lady on the steps will just have to wait while I perform this activity. (and she did) because it is an important life skill for my son to learn before he gets too big. Because you HAVE to STOP rewarding the inappropriate dragging and pulling before a shoulder joint is dislocated, Or Liam bolts to the middle of a school driveway surrounded by soccer-moms in people carriers who cannot reverse park. (a real hazard around any school)

Since that picture was taken, Liam has overtaken me in height and weight. If I didn’t implement a means of appropriate communication to explain things when he was smaller, I sure as heck would not be able to do it now. He is verbal and able to have a conversation with me but when he stressed he reverts, as we all do, to habits learned in the past.

I used to have to do this with portable visual schedules and social stories in a little book. Now I have the App. Whatever it takes, if it means I can go out and enjoy the real world with my son and daughter then I am going to keep it up.

My kids have always had an “Inner Voice” – I just have to shut up and listen to it.


One response to “Everybody Communicates, Let’s Just Change How”

  1. Make Do Style says:

    Love your techniques – useful for me to in a different way xx

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