Alternative communication and a child with profound Autism

Whilst research says that around 20-30% of people diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder will remain non-verbal. The reality is that a much larger percentage of Autistic people that can speak will also struggle to communicate effectively at all times.

The inability to communicate or communicate effectively has a significant impact on quality of life, educational access, and development of social skills and relationships with people.

Alternative communication can help. AAC products were developed from the most basic desire to help individuals who are unable to speak or express themselves.

  • Finding a voice for your child can however be very challenging or should I rather say finding the “right voice”.
  • The journey for most will start with sign-language and PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) and for many those first attempts will be very frustrating.
  • Motor planning and a child’s ability to point plays a big part in getting a child onto a devise or even to sign.
  • Depending on when you introduce an Alternative communication device will also depend on the child’s ability to accept and use the device.

Make sure you consult with a professional AAC therapist and that your child’s communication partners has adequate training to get the process started affectively.

It took us the best part of 12 years to find a way to get our child to answer questions and we are still working daily on getting her to “communicate” her feeling and emotions with us.

Madi is profoundly autistic and her motor planning has been our biggest challenge. I so desperately wish I knew 10 years ago what I know now about the importance of getting her help when she first showed signs of speech delays and motor challenges. But like many parents I also believed that “giving her time” would sort out the delays.

Don’t make the same mistakes I made – don’t waste a week or even a day before you get professional help. But in the same breath I have to add that it is never to late to introduce an alternative method of communication to your child.

The human brain can learn new skills and time is on your side. Whilst Early Intervention on Autism is beneficial on so many levels… Intervention can be started at any time. The longer you wait to start will merely mean that you will have to not just work on new behaviors but you very well may need to start with breaking the old once first.

It is critically important for you to understand that investing in an alternative communication device or communication Applications does not mean immediate results.

It can take years to get a child to effectively communicate using any form of AAC devices or technology. Just don’t give up and most importantly keep teaching all the other stuff like numeracy and literacy as well because not being able to speak does not mean the child is unable to learn.

Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.