How To Improve Conversational Skills In Children With Autism?

  1. Why Conversation Skills Matter
  2. Understanding The Unique Communication Challenges Faced By Autistic Children
  3. Strategies To Foster Practical Listening Skills
  4. Use Incidental Learning To Build Vocabulary
  5. Practice Is Vital In Developing Non-Verbal Communication Skills
  6. Ask Questions, Then Listen To The Answers
  7. Give Positive Feedback
  8. Talk About Their Current Interest
  9. Roleplay And Social Stories
  10. A Step-By-Step Conversation Plan For A Child With Autism
  11. Tips For Working On Conversation Skills With Autistic Teenagers
  12. Don’t Judge

When a child starts showing signs of autism, it’s natural for the parents to begin researching how to diagnose and help their child improve their symptoms. Conversational skills are hard for kids who have autism to understand, so this is where you come in: as a parent of an autistic child, you can help build their conversational skills by following some simple tips that help get your child engaged and excited about talking. We have more information on teaching conversation and life skills on our website.

Why Conversation Skills Matter

Conversation skills are essential in helping them develop into healthy adults. That’s because communication is one of the critical aspects required to friends and maintain relationships with others. With good communication skills, it will be easier for individuals to hold down jobs, live independently in their own homes, and navigate the complexities of life as adults.

Understanding The Unique Communication Challenges Faced By Autistic Children

Individuals with autism are commonly faced with four primary communication challenges. These challenges often intertwine and impact one another.

Receptive language difficulties: It’s important to note that autistic individuals may have difficulty understanding verbal communication, regardless of their hearing ability. This is due to a processing issue rather than a hearing impairment.

Verbalising: Certain children with autism may not develop the ability to speak, highlighting the importance of providing them with alternative means of communication.

Expressive language difficulties: Some children struggle with expressing themselves, which could be caused by a limited vocabulary, difficulty understanding verbs, or other similar factors.

Social language challenges: It can be challenging for people on the autism spectrum to comprehend social language, interpret body language, tone of voice, and unspoken visual cues, which makes holding a conversation difficult. 

Although conversation challenges significantly affect those with more severe cases of autism, even high-functioning autistic children may experience delays in conversational skills and tend to monopolise discussions by talking continuously on a topic they like without giving others a chance to participate.

Strategies to Foster Practical Listening Skills

Counterintuitively, an excellent place to start is by discussing practical ways to encourage your child with autism to listen more. Remember that every child is unique; what works for one child may not work for another. Consider your child’s personality and past experiences to determine the best strategy. Some practical tactics to consider are:

  • Improving eye contact and reducing the stress associated with it
  • Demonstrate the value of effective listening
  • Regularly practice and repeat listening skills
  • Using videos to practice with as they might reduce the pressure associated with active listening

Use Incidental Learning To Build Vocabulary

Incidental learning comes naturally through the activities you may be doing together, teaching students new words by focusing on their interests during other activities. Instead of just asking what they are doing, it is best to highlight specific features, actions, aspects, and locations. Give positive feedback and model the language best for them to learn. This method works for students of any level with activities like comics, computers and puzzles.

Practice Is Vital In Developing Non-Verbal Communication Skills

Researchers wanted to know how autism affects non-verbal communication skills, so they studied (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26079273/) children aged with and without autism. They developed a test to see if the children could recognise emotions from body posture. The results showed that the children with autism could recognise emotions from body posture just as well as those without autism. However, children without autism could recognise emotions better from their eyes than children with autism. They noticed that with practice, those with autism and particularly older children, could improve their ability to recognise emotions from the eyes and that this ability significantly improved with age. It should be noted that those with autism may not usually make eye contact or look for body language, so continued exposure to non-verbal communication can help increase one’s knowledge of emotions associated with different postures or expressions.

Ask Questions, Then Listen to the Answers

Once you know what your child likes to discuss, ask them questions. Open-ended questions can be a great way to encourage conversation and expand the types of topics they are comfortable discussing.

Ask questions that require more than just yes or no answers, such as: “What was your favourite part?” Ask them what they think about something you’re interested in (like a book you’ve read), but make sure it’s easy for them! If you ask the same question again because your child doesn’t understand it, try rephrasing it differently so they know better next time.

Give Positive Feedback

Positive feedback is essential to the development of a child’s social skills. Positive feedback is something you do not give out enough, and it can be one of the most effective ways to improve conversational skills in your child with autism.

There are many ways that you can give positive feedback; here are some examples:

  • When your child says something meaningful or helpful, tell them that you liked what they said.
  • If your child does something nice for another person (e.g., gives someone their pencil), point out what an excellent job they did! Not only will this encourage them to continue doing nice things for others, but also help develop empathy towards others who are less fortunate than them.

Talk About Their Current Interest

One of the best ways to improve your child’s conversational skills is to talk about their current interests. If they have no interest or you are talking about something that will not be relevant in the future, then it will be difficult for them to get interested in what you are saying.

If your child has a specific interest, this will help them become more engaged and involved in the conversation because they know more about what you are discussing.

Roleplay And Social Stories

It’s a great starting point if you have shared interests. You can discuss things like TV shows, school subjects, or sports. However, it’s essential to avoid negative comments about the other person.

Before speaking, consider how your words might affect the other person. Will it make them uncomfortable or upset? In situations where telling the truth might cause harm, it’s okay to tell a white lie—for example, complimenting someone’s hair colour even if you don’t like it.

  1. To start a conversation, ask open-ended questions such as “What did you do at school today?” or “What are you in the mood for dinner?” These types of questions allow for more detailed and thoughtful responses.
  2. Take turns to speak. Wait for them to answer. If they don’t answer, ask again and wait longer. Be patient! They may need more time to process what was said.
  3. Use short statements or questions like “That sounds neat” or “Did you have fun at school today?” and wait for them to respond before moving on with the conversation.

4. Repeat yourself if necessary and explain your words as much as needed (for example: explaining what “love” means).

A Step-By-Step Conversation Plan For A Child With Autism

It’s a great starting point if you have shared interests. You can discuss things like TV shows, school subjects, or sports. However, it’s essential to avoid negative comments about the other person.
Before speaking, consider how your words might affect the other person. Will it make them uncomfortable or upset? In situations where telling the truth might cause harm, it’s okay to tell a white lie—for example, complimenting someone’s hair colour even if you don’t like it.
1. To start a conversation, ask open-ended questions such as “What did you do at school today?” or “What are you in the mood for dinner?” These types of questions allow for more detailed and thoughtful responses.
2. Take turns to speak. Wait for them to answer. If they don’t answer, ask again and wait longer. Be patient! They may need more time to process what was said.
3. Use short statements or questions like “That sounds neat” or “Did you have fun at school today?” and wait for them to respond before moving on with the conversation.
4. Repeat yourself if necessary and explain your words as much as needed (for example: explaining what “love” means).

Tips For Working On Conversation Skills With Autistic Teenagers

Here are some tips that can help you adapt the steps above to your autistic child’s strengths, needs and stage of development:

  • Try initiating more extended conversations on less interesting topics or with people they are less familiar with. This will help improve their conversation skills.
  • Consider making visual cue cards or notes that your child can keep with them. This can be helpful for reminders and guidance.

Don't Judge

The first thing you should do when trying to improve your child’s conversational skills is to avoid judging them.

Please don’t make them feel bad about themselves or tell them they’re wrong for any reason. Instead, focus on celebrating their accomplishments and supporting their efforts at improvement. This will help them build confidence in themselves and their ability to interact with others and make both of you happier!

The best way to improve conversational skills in children with autism is by getting them to talk. You can do this by asking questions, listening to the answers and giving positive feedback. Also, discuss their current interest and roleplaying situations where they may feel uncomfortable. Don’t judge them when they get things wrong, as this will only make them more nervous about speaking out loud, making it harder for them in the future.

FAQs

People with autism often struggle with understanding nonverbal cues, such as body language, and identifying the social cues that give us a better understanding of how to carry out a conversation. They may also need help to process the complex linguistic elements of a conversation, such as tone of voice, facial expressions, and metaphors, making it difficult to interpret the meaning and respond appropriately.

Conversational skills are essential for effective communication and socialization. They are necessary to build relationships, express thoughts and feelings, understand others, and participate in conversations. Good conversational skills require practice and effort. They also require empathy, active listening, and the ability to recognize body language, tone, vocabulary, and context clues.

Autistic speech patterns refer to the specific ways that people with autism communicate. These patterns may include repeating certain words or phrases, using words or phrases out of context, discussing their interests in detail without transitioning to a new topic, and speaking with a monotone or robotic-like voice. Additionally, people with autism may struggle with prosody (rhythm and intonation) and have difficulty integrating different intonations into their conversations.

An autistic voice describes how a person with autism may sound when speaking. This includes high-pitched pitches, flat tones of voice, abrupt changes in pitch, difficulty with rhythm and tone, monotonic speech, or overly formal language. Additionally, they may have difficulty modulating their volume or have an overall flat effect.

Yes, autistic people can talk fluently, although their conversations may differ from those of neurotypical individuals. Autistic people may experience difficulty with the tone and rhythm, be hesitant to start conversations or struggle to remember topics of conversation. They may also exhibit scripted conversations or struggle to express their emotions and feelings. With practice and social skill training, people with autism can learn to talk fluently and socially interact with others.

Common communication challenges faced by individuals with autism include difficulty understanding and responding appropriately to social cues, initiating and sustaining conversations with peers, monitoring their tone of voice, using gestures and facial expressions to communicate, struggling to interpret jokes and sarcasm, and expressing emotions. Other challenges include difficulties with receptive and expressive language and forming new words or using the correct word for an object or action.

Common communication challenges faced by individuals with autism include difficulty understanding and responding appropriately to social cues, initiating and sustaining conversations with peers, monitoring their tone of voice, using gestures and facial expressions to communicate, struggling to interpret jokes and sarcasm, and expressing emotions. Other challenges include difficulties with receptive and expressive language and forming new words or using the correct word for an object or action.

Some effective methods to teach turn-taking during conversations include: providing visual cues to indicate it is someone’s turn or using a timer to signal to transition turns; practising simple conversations with a partner; role-playing conversations to practice the skill; breaking conversations up into small, manageable chunks; and using social stories and comics to explain the concept in a simple, visual way. Additionally, teaching metaphors and introducing the idea of conversation as a game can make the process more exciting and less intimidating.

Non-verbal communication and body language are tough to communicate but can be taught to individuals with autism through the use of visual supports, such as pictures or videos that demonstrate facial expressions and gestures. These role-playing activities involve imitating the verbal and non-verbal behaviours of others and providing feedback when they use gestures. Additionally, teachable moments throughout daily life can reinforce understanding of different facial expressions and body language. Additionally, using storytelling and comic books to demonstrate body language is effective, as these visual cues often make the concepts concrete and easier to understand.