Communication Strategies for Children with Non-verbal Disabilities

What is non – verbal disabilities?

The term “non – verbal disabilities” refers to a child who has a physical or learning disability, as well as behavioral or emotional challenges. It is common for these children to experience multiple forms of limitations simultaneously. Communication difficulties, particularly limited or absent verbal communication, are frequently observed among many special needs children.

Effective communication is pivotal for service providers, as it enables them to understand their client’s needs, emotions, and desires. While speech is the primary means of communication for most people, some children for an instance : Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be non-verbal. However, this does not indicate that they lack desire or ability to communicate. Individuals with non – verbal disabilities still have a strong urge to express themselves, but they utilize alternative methods such as movements, sounds, and body language cues to convey their thoughts and feelings.

Children with non-verbal disabilities face not only physical limitations that hinder their communication abilities but also encounter environmental obstacles. These children often rely on assistive tools to facilitate their communication and may require significant investments of time and resources to learn and adapt their strategies to effectively navigate the world around them.

What should you know about communicating with children with non – verbal disabilities ?

As a parent of a non – verbal child, there are several important aspects to be mindful :

  • Language and communication encompass more than just spoken words.
  • Your child might employ alternative communication methods such as crying, grunting, or sighing.
  • Each child with ASD is unique, and their response to different communication approaches varies. It is important to find the most effective mode of communication that suits both you and your child.
  • If your child is enrolled in a special education program, engage in conversations with their teachers and therapists to explore the diverse strategies they utilize to facilitate communication with your child.

Strategies for non – verbal children to communicate effectively

  • Learn and use sign language

Consider learning American Sign Language (ASL) or Makaton sign language to communicate with your child. Both are valuable options, with Makaton being particularly popular for non – verbal children due to its ease of learning and adaptability in various situations. Many therapists recommend and utilize Makaton as a communication tool for children.

  • Pay close attention

When interacting with a non – verbal or non speaking child, it is vital to be attentive to both the child and their actions.

Children have various means of communication beyond verbal language. Your child may express their needs, wants, and desires in unconventional ways that do not involve spoken language.

  • Communication

Continuing to engage in conversations with your child is important, even if they are non – verbal.

Use your child’s name when addressing them and maintain a consistent level of communication by greeting them with phrases like “good morning,” “hi,” and “bye.” Narrate your activities and tasks while including them in the conversation.

Avoid talking about your child in the third person when they are present. Refrain from expressing concerns about their speech, language skills, or learning abilities in their presence. Instead, involve them in conversations whenever they are around.

  • Present  child-friendly language

When communicating with a non – verbal child, it’s important to use language that is child-friendly and easy to understand.

Use simple words and short sentences when talking to them or narrating activities. Break down instructions into one-step tasks and observe if they can follow through. For instance, ask them to hand you “the yellow ball” and see if they can successfully complete the task.

As they become more comfortable and confident, you can gradually introduce two-step instructions to further develop their communication skills.

  • Sit in their line of sight

When engaging in communication with your child, it is beneficial to position yourself at their eye level. By doing so, you allow them to see your eyes, mouth movements, and facial expressions, which can aid in their understanding.

It’s important to remember that an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis does not imply an inability to comprehend or benefit from observing your speech and body language.

Imitate Behavior

Engaging in play and interaction with your child can involve imitating their actions and sounds, as research suggests that this practice can benefit them in several ways:

  • Share emotions
  • Understand facial expressions
  • Increase attention toward the caregiver
  • Understand turn-taking
  • Use Visual Cues

To enhance communication efficiency, it can be beneficial to consult your child’s speech therapist and learn the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).

If your child’s speech therapist is already implementing PECS, consider acquiring knowledge and techniques related to this communication system.

Credit: Care,Inc, fca, Caring healthcare


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