Yes, what I wrote in the title is not an error. My son Michael has INDEED taught me how to have a conversation with him. Even in the beginning when he was non-verbal and it was difficult for us to understand each other, I realized early on that in order for Michael and I to communicate, we had to invite one another into the other’s world. In the beginning, there was much more of me doing the inviting, as it was a stressful process for Michael, to say the least. With his sensory issues, our world did not make sense to him. Why do people do certain thing? Why do they talk and move so quickly? Why is everything so bright? Even today, I see remnants of that, and I have to sometimes remind myself daily that Michael, and all people with autism or other neuro developmental conditions, are brave indeed to be able to survive and thrive in a world that is not physically friendly to them and to their bodies. As I began seeing we had to learn to “dance” together in order to be close and have a relationship, beautiful things began to happen and we began to have a conversation. Here is how to have that conversation.
5 Ways Kids With Autism Teach Us To Have A Conversation:
- Speak their language and meet them where they are: When he would rock back and forth near me, I would stay nearby and get his attention with a toy and then repeat that word. I would be patient and wait for him to come to me. Later on I tried rocking alongside him. He had already met me in “my world” at this point, and so he laughed and asked what I was doing. I often wished I had tried that sooner when he was younger, as I dear writer friend who thinks outside the box had suggested. 🙂
- Speak slowly and clearly: This was something hard for me to do at first, especially when language started to come. Patience is not one of my virtues, but I am learning. Kids with autism need time to respond to cues, verbal and other. When I would give Michael the time, he would respond and gradually learned to keep pace with me, and well, now he surpasses me in speech. 🙂
- Play simple games like peekaboo, swinging child in blanket or hide n seek: Simple games that involve two people will be the best way to teach social interaction and communication. These were breakthrough games for Michael and I.
- Look to their interests and embrace it: This means embracing their love of certain toys, tv shows, games etc. Yes, sometimes they are weird things, but think how you feel when family and friends listen to you talk passionately about a subject. This shows your child that they matter to you.
- Have a solid routine: I can’t stress this one enough. Everyone needs routine in order to function at top capacity. Kids with autism CRAVE it. A good daytime play, food and nap routine, as well as a night one, will go a long way in teaching structure and sharing of a household. Yes, you can (and should) alter the routine as they get older, and switch things up as they can handle it. Remember though, a good structure goes a long way to building secure communication together.
In doing this, I have become, and continue to become, amazed by Michael’s grasp of the world outside himself which is getting stronger every day. Now he is learning “theory of mind”, that is putting himself in other people’s shoes and feeling what they feel. He throws me curve balls in conversation like any child would and I am so proud.
Exceptional Parents, what challenges are you having communicating with your children? What tricks of the trade do you use? For some children, use of a computer or a PECS system helps tremendously. Do whatever works for your child, just remember to meet them where they are and they will do the same for you. Then you will do the beautiful dance of social interaction together. Until next time.