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Written by  Tuesday, 04 July 2017 00:46
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Pervasive Parenting
By Kodey Toney


Since autism is a neurological disorder defined by a lack of language and social skills I felt I should revisit some thoughts on communication.

This comes up because I've had some serious discussions lately with parents about their concerns with their child's speech delays. These are legitimate concerns. There is nothing harder than knowing your child can't tell you how they feel, what they need, or that they love you.

When Konner was younger and his speech regressed we were told he may never speak. Yes, I know how fortunate we are that he talks now.

I also know that being non-verbal doesn't mean non-communicative. I look at famous people on the spectrum like Carly Fleischmann and Naoki Higashida who have both written books despite being non-verbal. They have learned how to communicate through technology.

You see, communication isn't just speaking with your voice. In fact, part of the problem with communicating with someone on the spectrum is that we use body language and inflection in our voices to imply many things within our words. Those are things that those with autism have a hard time reading. Sarcasm and figures of speech are lost on many because they are concrete-thinkers. Things are very black-and-white.

Don't forget that behavior is communication. If I can't communicate my needs I'm going to be frustrated, I'm going to have anxiety. This is what causes many of the meltdowns.

As I said earlier in this column, I had a mom that was concerned because she wanted to hear her son's voice. I completely understand this. That, however, was only part of the problem. The communication barrier was causing behavior issues which turned into meltdowns.

I asked if they had tried other forms of communication like the pecs system or sign language. These are only a couple ways that have worked for families that we have worked with. A speech therapist can help with these things.

The mom said she didn't want her son to learn sign language because he would rely on those things, and she may never hear his voice. Again, this is a legitimate concern, but it's like crawling before walking. If they can tell you what they want you can possibly use that to curb the behaviors and spark verbal communication.

I'm not saying that every child will learn to speak. However, I also like to say, when you're talking about what someone on the spectrum can't do, always add "yet" to the end.


Kodey Toney, M.Ed Director

David Deaton

Digital Editor at Oklahoma Welcome

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