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Nurturing Communication Skills:

A Parent's Guide After an Autism Diagnosis



Receiving an autism diagnosis for your child can be an overwhelming experience, flooding your mind with countless questions about the future and what steps to take. Whether you're navigating the aftermath of a diagnosis or suspecting autism, the journey may seem daunting. As a speech-language pathologist and a parent of a child on the spectrum, I understand the importance of early intervention and fostering communication skills from the start.


The Misconceptions:


Before the diagnosis, well-intentioned advice from friends, family, and even pediatricians might have downplayed your concerns. Phrases like "selective hearing" or "just wait and see, he'll grow out of it" may have been thrown around. However, it's crucial to recognize that addressing communication challenges early on is key to maximizing your child's potential, regardless of an autism diagnosis.

The Power of Early Intervention:


Communication difficulties lie at the core of autism, emphasizing the need for early intervention. As a parent, you play a pivotal role in guiding your child through this journey. Using your child's special interests as a gateway, you can effectively enter their world and encourage communication.






Building Communication Skills:


One vital piece of advice is to leverage your child's special interests, whether it's animals, cars, Batman, or computers. By joining your child in their favorite activities, you create a foundation for communication. Sharing my personal experience as a parent, my son's love for lining up cars became an opportunity for us to spend quality time together. Through patience and consistency, we turned this into a game that gradually improved his communication skills.


The Importance of Joint Attention:


Focusing on joint attention is crucial for children with autism. This skill involves sharing focus with another person on a particular object or area, vital for communication and language learning. Joint attention therapy, which includes activities like pointing, showing, and coordinating looks, has shown significant and lasting improvements in communication skills for kids with autism.


Tailoring Techniques to Interests:


As a parent, your role involves being both a coach and a cheerleader. Discovering what captures your child's interest and engaging with them in those activities becomes a powerful tool. Whether it's a potbelly pig, music, or technology, tailoring communication techniques to your child's preferences can be transformative.


Harnessing Technology:


In the modern age, technology has emerged as a game-changer for parents and speech-language pathologists. Touch-screen devices and innovative apps designed for children with autism have not only provided a means of expression but also changed expectations for their capabilities. These tools have helped non-verbal children find their voice through customized learning methods.


Introducing InnerVoice:


Drawing from my extensive experience, I developed InnerVoice, a communication app designed to build on children's special interests. This app, available at innervoiceapp.com, offers a customized approach, allowing each child to learn in a way that incorporates their passions.



Conclusion:


Creating a communication system for a child on the autism spectrum is a unique challenge, but by paying attention to their interests and using joint play to encourage communication, you set them on a path to improved skills and expanded options for the future. As parents, we have the power to make a significant impact on our children's communication journey, one step at a time.


Lois Jean Brady has over 25 years of experience as a practicing speech-language pathologist, assistive technology specialist and Certified Autism Specialist (CAS). Career accomplishments include winner of three Autism Hackathons, Benjamin Franklin Award for Apps for Autism, and an Ursula Award for Autism Today TV.


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