Communication is difficult for many individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Even verbal individuals with Autism can struggle with communication. It is important to remember that there is more to communication than being able to speak.
I am very verbal and enjoy talking to people every chance I get. Yet I still struggle with communication. I know that this may surprise many people, because I can get by so well using my speech to communicate. Most people would never guess that I struggle with communication. Most of the topics I talk about are very basic: my special interests, current events, family, pets, past stories, etc. Talking about what I am thinking and how I am feeling is very hard for me to do.
Communicating by Typing
Over the years, I have discovered that I have a gift in typing and writing to communicate. I am able to type about how I feel and what I am thinking.
The challenge for me is that people expect me to be able to communicate without a problem because I am very verbal. I worry about what people will think of me if I get out my Ipad to help me communicate because I can talk. Over the last few months I have started to realize that I need to communicate in a way that works best for me.
- I prefer to communicate with others via email, or chatting on Facebook. This is the easiest way for me to communicate because it is more visual, I do not have to worry about making eye contact or reading body language, and it is less overwhelming for me.
- My mom and I chat on Facebook while we are both at home, because this is the easiest way for me to communicate.
It is important that you allow the individual with Autism to communicate in a way that they feel most comfortable, but also provide support for them to practice communicating in a way or in an environment that is out of their comfort zone.
Interview with Sondra Williams
I interviewed Sondra Williams; Sondra is an adult living with autism in the state of Ohio. She is a Mom to four adult/children all diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Sondra is a national speaker and author.
Me: “What is the easiest way for you to communicate?”
Sondra: “The easiest way for me to communicate is via typing out my words to a computer key board and or using of my Ipad to type out words on a type to speak program…. it frees up so much for me to be able to type out and bypass the strong effort to transfer my thoughts to words.”
Me: “Why do you think communicating verbally is harder for you?”
Speaking or using verbal means, is more difficult due to the need to be a participant in the now of words…. this causes language to be too fast of broken. I need to process the words sounds, sift out the movement of the other person, their body language, their scents and many other sensory issues and that all interferes with me hearing the person and responding in good timing. Unless one is of speaking in the realms of one of my interest, I find I can sift out things and self adapt but the scripts are of already formed in me and stored into a metaphorical file and can easily be access when a trigger word opens it.
Conversations often happen in a rapid shifting of back and forth turn taking and because cant read or find the cues in good timing might over speak or shut down.
Me: “If you could tell parents/educators who work with and care for individuals with ASD one tip of advice on how they can help their child communicate what would you tell them?”
I would say to parents and professionals to observe and watch for signals and clues of how the person is already attempting to communicate or what skill sets they already have and try to transfer that to a model that matches their ability level and as they master of it would expand it into a more sophisticated means like typing to speak sorts of communicating. One can reinforce this by having their favorite treat or item they want, and say what do you want? Show me and teach them in the begin cookie for example…. then expand it to I want a cookie… and reward them when they type out their request, as they master of this requesting then teach of them new language concepts of commenting, responding, sort of things still with a reinforce that is faded if it can be faded out, but if not still continue to reinforce with what ever motivates the person to share from their own voice inside to typing it out.
Me: “Thank you so much for allowing me to interview you, Sondra!”