Communication Aids for Children with Autism
Autism is a developmental disability which affects the way an individual is able to communicate with and understand other people and the world around them. There are varying degrees of autism, which is why the condition is considered spectral with individuals diagnosed with the condition to a particular degree. Individuals with an autistic spectrum disorder will all share similar qualities but they may be more or less pronounced depending on the severity of the condition. There are individuals with autism who can communicate verbally with no significant difficulties whilst there are others with no verbal communication whatsoever, as well as many in between.
There are over half a million people in the UK who have autism and many of these are children. Developing communication methods with children with autism is key to ensuring they enter adulthood with the tools required to head towards independence. Below are some key communication aids you can use with children with autism, but first this video gives some tips and ideas with regard to choosing communication devices:
Low-Tech Communication Devices
Makaton is a simple form of sign language which combines signs, images and speech. My First Makaton Symbols and Signs Book is the ideal place to start when introducing Makaton to your child. It includes all essential symbols and helps with the initial process of expressing basic needs, wants and feelings, as well as encouraging interaction.
We’ve looked at these before on this blog but Picture Exchange Communication Keyrings are a great portable method of communication for children with autism who can become non-verbal in situations where they become anxious and find verbalising their feelings difficult. They’re also useful for those who are permanently non-verbal. They come in a wide range covering food and drink, instructions and behaviour and much more, allowing for all needs to be quickly put across and met, as with standard speech.
High-Tech Communication Devices
Tobii produce a range of high-tech communication devices which are tailored to support the needs of children with autism and also adults who have the condition. The Tobii S32 for example plays back pre-recorded messages or sounds which can be activated by simply touching a printed sheet including symbols relating to the devices’ sounds. It’s a technological step up from picture cards and signs and gives users a voice when they are unable to find their own.
The Toby Lightwriter Range
Similarly, the Lightwriter range of products is a great option for those with high-functioning Autism who sometimes require assistance with their speech. Lightwriters allows for keyboard based text-to-speech ideal for when an older child with autism loses their ability to communicate verbally but wants to put across their needs through text.
Accessories for Communication
All of these communication devices require a flat surface to be used, to ensure they are easy to access and communication doesn’t get confused. A Trabasack lap tray is ideal for providing a sturdy and secure surface for all communication devices in use by children with autism. Keyrings can be clipped to the side of the Trabasack when it’s used as a bag and other devices can be safely stored in the bag compartment when not in use on the tray surface.
The tray is lightweight and can be rested upon any lap without causing any discomfort and the communication device, whether it’s a simple book being read with a parent or a high-tech Tobii AAC device, can be put on top of the tray and easily accessed.