May 28, 2012

The world moves to0 fast for children on the spectrum. They have trouble processing multiple information at one time, and tend to have delayed processing. Because of this our world simply moves way too fast for them. Slow things down and savor the moment. Take little things in the day and slow them down, augmenting the salient parts so they can reference the important things. When using language w...ith children on the spectrum, there are three important factors.

1. Slow it down and use shorten your sentences. Speak in two to three word phrases if the child only speaks in short phrases. It makes it easier for them to process. The longer the sentence the more jumbled the information becomes. Use only as long of sentences that the child uses in return. However, even for very verbal children, shorten sentences makes it easier for them to process.

2. Use less words and more nonverbal language (exaggerated gestures and animated expressions) to communicate. Most of the children process better visually then they do auditory. In addition, it gets the child referencing your nonverbal language for information. Children on the spectrum will usually listen to your words without referencing you visually for information. This is one reason why they have a hard time reading body language. Slow it down and use more exaggerated gestures and animated facial expressions to convey meaning. When the child starts to forget to reference your nonverbal language, you simply pause the activity until he references you again. Once he picks this up, he will start to reference you more naturally.

3. When using words, use more "declarative language" instead of "imperative language." Imperative language is any statements that direct a specific response from a child (questions, directives, instructions, prompts, etc.). Declaratives are any statements that invite, but do not direct a specific response from the child (statements share information, ideas, thoughts, feelings, experiences and perspectives). Normal interaction between two NT people usually consist of about 20% imperative (questioning, directing) and 80% declaratives (sharing ideas and information). However, when we interact with children on the spectrum the ratio is turned around; usually 80% imperative and 20% declaratives. Children on the spectrum tend to freeze up and resist imperative language. They tend to have strong "performance anxiety" and pull back from imperative (directive language). Just like us, no one likes to be questioned, prompted, directed all the time. In our experiences with families, changing (rephrasing) our language is probably the strongest tool we find. It is as simple as changing our language from "John, what is the matter?" to a descriptive statement like "Wow Johnny, you really look upset to me!". You will find much more use of talking with the kids. Try on your teenager when he comes home from school. Instead of saying "How did your day go?" (which usually gets one word "fine"), try "You look like you had a good day today (or bad one)" and watch the kind of reaction you get. Usually the child will go into much more detail. We find that we usually get three times more interaction from the child when we use declarative language.

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