Best Ways to Communicate with an Autistic Child. Find the best child therapist in Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata.

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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant challenges in the socio-emotional and behavioural spheres. The term “spectrum” refers to a range of skills and levels of impairment that people with ASD could have. A spectrum indicates that autism is not of one type, but consists of many different presentations. Each child with ASD is unique, but certain common factors shape the way others interact with the child.

Children with autism tend to be focussed on their inner world, often not giving heed to their surroundings and social interactions. This causes significant disruptions in their social development. They may have an impairment in what is known as “theory of mind”, due to which they lack the ability to read others’ emotions and place themselves in others’ situations. Intricacies of social communication may be lost out due to this as they may unable to gauge sarcasm, humour or may not understand discrepancies in others words and actions. They may also have difficulty understanding different viewpoints.

When dealing with a child who may have difficulties understanding social cues, responding to and recognizing others’ emotions, communicating with them becomes central. It may be challenging, but is necessary to form relationships with them. When interacting with those with Autism, some things are imperative to be considered that they may have:

  • Own set of fixed activities that they find comfort in
  • Repetitive conversations or behaviours which may be self-destructive
  • Difficulty gauging emotions based on expressions, tone of voice, head nods
  • Disinterest in communicating entirely
  • Being overwhelmed by environmental factors, sounds, crowds, colours, etc.
  • Limited language ability or some degree of intellectual disability
  • Giftedness in one skill such as mathematics, art, memory, etc.
  • Inability to appropriately convey needs, leading to frustration and outbursts
  • Dislike for physical touch
  • Speak in a monotonous voice

  • Interacting with a child on the spectrum requires being mindful of certain aspects for effective communication. Here are certain essential skills to use in such contexts:

  • Patience: Children with ASD may not quickly pickup on what is being said, especially if they have an intellectual disability. It would be helpful if the speaker gives time for the child to understand.
  • Listen: They must also be given time to speak. Listening is an important communication skill with any individual. Occasional head nods can be useful to show one’s interest.
  • Boundaries: Children on the spectrum may not be interested in physical touch or may even be averse to it. Being respectful of them and their psysical space may benefit the communication process.
  • Encouragement: Children with ASD may work best with the use of positive reinforcements. Using praises and rewards to help them understand certain things may work.
  • Words for emotions: Since the child many not understand emotions from non-verbal cues, using labels for emotions may help them relate. Saying “I am sad” or “I am upset” may be more effective than waiting for them to recognize the emotion.
  • Express affection: Children with ASD, like any other children, need to be showed love and affection. Determining their way of receiving love and doing accordingly may help create a stronger bond.
  • Resilient: While communicating with a child having ASD, one must understand that they would not deliberately want to hurt feelings, but may sometimes do so being unaware of emotional cues. Being compassionate rather than defensive may help.
  • Content: Since the child may have certain areas of interest that they make prefer talking about more, it is important to allow them to speak of that. It may not do much good to constantly force certain uninteresting topics on them.

  • Being a parent/caretaker to a child with ASD comes with its challenges. One may need to seek guidance from multiple sources to understand how to deal with them in an efficient way. ASD needs to be effectively managed with the help of several professionals, but parents, teachers and others need to be made aware of how to deal with a child having autism. These professionals may include psychiatrists, paediatric neurologists, child psychologists, behaviour analysist, speech therapists, special educators, occupational therapist, social workers. These professionals may work together to help the child manage their daily lives and overcome any neurological, socio-emotional, cognitive or behavioural obstacles that they may be facing.

    Those with ASD may be isolated, bullied or mocked often by their peers due to a lack of understanding about the disorder. The child’s inability to effectively communicate may cause further problems in the same. Hence, it is better that the child finds a safe space in those who take the efforts to communicate with them. The more people who are made aware of these issues, the more inclusive the society becomes, for neurotypical and neurodivergent people alike.

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    Chinmayee Bagul
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