Autism affects individuals of every socioeconomic background, ethnic group, and race. Boys are four times as likely to have autism than girls. According to the CDC, around one in every 44 eight-year-old kids in the United States has been found to have Autism.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or Autism, is a developmental disability that can result in substantial behavioral, social, and communication challenges. The term “spectrum” describes an extensive range of skills, symptoms, and levels of impairment that individuals with Autism or ASD can experience, including Autism communication challenges.
Communication Struggles with Autism
Kids with ASD may seem like they exist in their private world, where they are limited in how they can interact and communicate with others. They’re often self-absorbed. They may have trouble understanding what other people are saying to them. They may have challenges developing their language skills.
Also, they frequently have challenges with nonverbal communication, such as:
- Facial expressions
- Eye contact
- Hand gestures
Autistic children’s ability to use language and communicate depends on their social and intellectual development. Certain Autistic children may not be able to communicate using language or speech. Others’ speaking skills may be extremely limited. Some kids with ASD may have ample vocabulary and can talk in detail about specific subjects.
Others may have issues with the rhythm and meaning of sentences and words. They might not know the meaning of various vocal tones or can’t understand body language. Combined, challenges like these can affect how kids with Autism interact with other people, particularly other children of their age.
Nonverbal Communication Struggles
Children with ASD often have nonverbal communication struggles. This is apparent in their inability to understand nonverbal communication, such as:
- Body language
- Eye communication
- Facial expressions
- Hand signs
Kids with Autism often can’t give meaning to their speech through gestures like pointing to objects. They frequently avoid making eye contact. This can make them seem uninterested, rude, or inattentive.
When unable to enhance their oral language skills with nonverbal skills or meaningful gestures, they can become easily frustrated when trying to make their thoughts, needs, and feelings known. They may display inappropriate behaviors or vocal outbursts to act their frustrations out.
Verbal Communication Struggles
Different verbal communication struggles children with ASD often deal with include:
Rigid or Repetitive Language
Autistic kids who can speak will frequently say things that don’t have meaning or don’t seem to even be related to the conversations they’re having with other people. For instance, they may continue counting to five during a conversation that doesn’t have anything to do with numbers. Or they may repeat words continually that they’ve heard. This is known as a condition known as echolalia.
With immediate echolalia, a child may repeat words another person has just said. For instance, upon hearing a question, they may answer by asking the same question. If they have delayed echolalia, they may repeat words they heard earlier that day.
Some may use robot-like speech or speak in a sing-song or high-pitched voice. Others may begin conversations using stock phrases.
Uneven Language Development
Many kids with ASD develop some language and speech skills, but they don’t develop them to an average ability level. And their progress is typically uneven. For instance, they may quickly develop a solid vocabulary in a specific interest area. Many children will see or hear something and retain a good memory for that information.
Some kids may be able to read words before turning five years old, but they can’t comprehend what they just read. These kids often don’t respond to their name being called or to other people’s speech. Because of this, others sometimes think these children have hearing problems.
Exceptional Abilities and Narrow Interests
Some Autistic children can give a long speech about a subject they find interesting, even though they can’t have a two-way conversation about the same subject. Other children with ASD may be good at counting or figuring out math calculations — others have outstanding abilities in music, math, or memorization.
Autism Communication Strategies
Some strategies people can try to help with better communication with their child with ASD include:
1. Getting and Maintaining their Attention
They should always use their child’s name first so the child knows they’re speaking to them. They should also ensure their child pays attention to them when they give instructions or ask questions. They can use their interests, hobbies, or current activities to help engage them.
2. Pay Attention
If someone notices their child stimming, they should realize they do that because they’re experiencing excessive sensory stimuli or emotion. It does not indicate a good or bad thing — it’s just a behavior they do.
Most individuals with ASD experience a general sense of uneasiness or free-floating anxiety, and stimming helps them keep this feeling under control. If a person notices their child is rocking back and forth or moving around a bit more than they usually do, they may want to ask their child if they need anything. They can also try turning down any excess noise or lights, which can help.
3. Minimize Less Important Information
Individuals with ASD often find it hard to filter out less essential information. They can begin to experience “overload” if there’s too much information being thrown at them. Therefore, to help, people can:
- Use, repeat, and stress-specific keywords
- Say less and say it a bit more slowly
- Don’t ask too many questions
- Pause between phrases and words to provide their child time to process what they’ve said and to provide them with the opportunity to think of their response
- Use less Autism nonverbal communication
- Be aware of the type of environment they’re in (i.e., crowded/noisy)
- Use visual supports (i.e., Social stories, timetables, symbols) when appropriate
4. Give Instruction Nicely
People with ASD aren’t born with social skills like others, or they weren’t educated on coping mechanisms or social etiquette properly. Because they don’t know things instinctively, it is more difficult to form connections.
When they process social cues, they can accidentally say something that may seem mean, stupid, offensive, or miss something. When they don’t have physical or emotional cues to help guide their response, they’re left with the words only. For a neurotypical, it can turn into an awkward experience.
5. Avoid Open-Ended Questions
People can help their loved ones with ASD by:
- Asking only necessary questions
- Keeping their questions short
- Structuring their questions (i.e., offer choices or options)
- Be specific (i.e., “Did you like the movie you watched today?” instead of “How was your day?”)
Get Help with Autism
There are not a lot of highly effective treatment interventions available for Autism today. No specific medication is designed to treat ASD.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) has been shown to effectively minimize Autism symptoms in ways other treatments haven’t been able to do. Individuals with Autism can receive TMS therapy here at our San Diego Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Center.
Benefits of TMS therapy include:
- It’s a non-invasive treatment since it’s entirely external to the body
- It has minimal to no side effects in most patients
- It has a very high success rate in decreasing symptoms of Autism
- It’s relatively painless
- It’s non-sedative and doesn’t require any sedation
Depending on where on the Autism spectrum the individual lies, we may target specific areas of the brain to address the individual’s symptoms. Contact us today at Brain Therapy TMS to set up an appointment for a consultation.