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Developing Language

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    People with autism may have difficulty understanding the meaning of language used by others. They may not always realise when they have misunderstood instructions so may not ask for help when it’s needed. It is important to support your child in understanding the complexities of language cues so that they are able to improve their social interactions with others.

    Difficulties with language development

    People with autism are known to be visual learners and are able to make much more use of information presented visually. Often people have difficulty seeing the whole picture getting side tracked by a small detail or processing a lot of information from different sources together.

    As well as finding the language difficult to understand, people with autism also miss many of the social/environmental cues that help us understand what is happening – not to mention other people’s behaviour and non-verbal communication such as facial expressions and body language. Not knowing what’s going to happen can lead to anxiety which may result in difficult behaviours. People with autism may also;

    • Find it difficult to regulate their sensory system which can make attending to what is being said difficult
    • Need extra time to process verbal information
    • Become anxious or overwhelmed which impacts on their ability to take in verbal information
    • Find it difficult understand the pragmatics of communication e.g. intonation, pauses, emphasis of key words etc.
    • Take things literally which can lead to misunderstanding

    To support your child, make sure they understand:

    • What he/she is supposed to be doing,
    • How long he/she will be engaged in the activity or how to monitor how he/she is progressing through an activity if it does not have a very clear visual ending
    • What he/she will go on to do once s/he has finished the present activity.

    The effective use of visual support strategies will help in answering these questions for your child (e.g. objects of reference, photographs, first/then boards, choice boards, visual countdown mechanisms and visual instructions for activities of daily living at home e.g. dressing).

    Understanding social cues can be a challenge for people with autism, so it is important to support them and their development. If you have any concerns surrounding developing language, please speak to one of our team.

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