Speaking is one of our primary forms of communication. But what do you do when you have a non-verbal child? How can you understand their needs and enable them to express their thoughts and emotions in a way that makes sense?
Just because they don’t speak doesn’t mean they have nothing to say. Their mind may work perfectly well, they are just unable to vocalize what they want. Through alternative forms of communication, you can make connecting with them easier and boost their independence. You may become very adept at understanding what they are trying to say, but they need to be able to communicate with others in a comprehendible way as well.
There are multiple ways for non-verbal children to communicate, and technology is advancing every day.
Facial Expressions/Body Language: Our body language sends messages to people all the time. Help your child to associate different expressions or movements with the corresponding words.
Text-to-Speech Technology: Older children can type what they want to say and a computer program can read it aloud. There are also programs that can also be used when reading books or other materials.
Picture Exchange Communication Systems (PECS): Giving your child picture options helps them better communicate what they want or need. They point to the corresponding image or hand it to you and then you can respond appropriately.
Communication Software: There are also devices and programs that you can pre-program with responses. When your child taps on the picture, the corresponding sentence or word is said aloud.
Sign Language: Children of all ages can learn to sign. Even toddlers who haven’t started talking yet can use basic signs to express themselves. Your child can start with letters or simple signs and then move on to more complex sentences.
There are many different ways to encourage communication with your non-verbal child. Let their interests and abilities lead the way as you figure out what works best for them. Gesturing can work well in many situations, but also take time to explore available technology and see what it has to offer. Most importantly, give them the opportunity to express themselves and don’t automatically speak for them.
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