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As an early childhood special education teacher, I've witnessed the remarkable impact of text-only prompts as an intervention for enhancing communication skills in autistic children (Finkel & Williams, 2001; Sprinkle & Miguel, 2013).


Here's the exciting part: this powerful approach isn't confined to the classroom; it easily extends its effectiveness in the comfort of your home. They don't require fancy tools or complex techniques; all you need are everyday materials like Post-it notes or small whiteboards (Ganz et al., 2008). As a parent or caregiver, you can effortlessly incorporate these prompts into your child's daily routines and activities.


Incorporating the use of text prompts instead of picture icons paired with text is a game-changer!


One of the significant advantages is the reduction of visual "noise." Text-only prompts offer a clear and straightforward presentation, making it easier for young learners to focus on the essential information.


Autistic children are often drawn to letters and pattern recognition, and that's where text prompts come in handy. Imagine your child's face lighting up with fascination every time they encounter letters.

Seize this opportunity to create personalized text-only prompts at home. Write simple functional communication prompts like "want (this)?," "bathroom," or "eat" on post-it notes and place them strategically around the house – on the fridge, on the front door, or on the table near where they sit.


As you go about your day, encourage your child to interact with these prompts. Ask or help them point to the words and read them aloud. You'll be amazed at how this simple activity can spark their communication efforts as they begin to connect words with their needs and desires.


Another key benefit lies in the increased generalizability of this approach in everyday life. Unlike picture icons that may be specific to certain contexts or settings, text prompts can be applied in various situations, making communication more versatile and functional.


Another way to extend this approach is by incorporating text-only prompts during shared activities. For instance, while cooking together, use a small whiteboard with prompts like “help” “more”, or “all done”. This not only nurtures their language skills but also fosters participation and engagement in the activity.


According to scientific research (Finkel & Williams, 2001; Sprinkle & Miguel, 2013), using text-only prompts at home is a wonderful way to foster a supportive communication environment for your child. It's not magic; it's grounded in evidence.


Picture icons can sometimes be cumbersome and inconvenient, especially when trying to carry around multiple cards for different words or concepts. The limited space on the picture icons may also lead to small text, making it challenging for some children to read or understand.


Moreover, the interpretation of picture icons can be subjective and prone to miscommunication. A picture of a frog jumping to symbolize "go" or a smiling yellow flower for the word "yes" may not be intuitive for all children, which could cause confusion and frustration.


With text prompts, children have access to clear, concise representations of words, making communication more effective and accurate. The simplicity of using text-only prompts opens up a world of opportunities for autistic children to express themselves confidently and independently.


So, as parents and caregivers, you have the unique opportunity to be your child's first and most important teacher. By incorporating text-only prompts into your daily interactions, you create an environment that nurtures their communication abilities, fosters connections, and unlocks the door to a world of shared understanding.


It's the small moments – the heartfelt conversations, the shared smiles,

and the exchanged glances – that lay the foundation for a lifetime of communication. Embrace the power of text-only prompts as your companion on this journey, both in the classroom and at home. Together, let's celebrate every step forward, every word spoken, and every connection made as your child's voice finds its rightful place in a world that's ready to listen.


Sara Featherstone is a dedicated early

childhood educator with over 23 years of experience, specializing in inclusive education and supporting children with varying abilities, including those with autism. She holds an early childhood specialist credential and a site supervisor early childhood permit in California. Sara's commitment to making a positive impact on young learners' lives extends beyond the classroom, as she is also a parent herself. With a background in cultural anthropology, Sara brings a holistic perspective to her work

and collaborates with parents and professionals to ensure every child reaches their unique potential


References


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. (5th ed.). Arlington, VA.


Binger, C. & Light, J. (2007). The effect of aided AAC modeling on the expression of multi-symbol messages by preschoolers who use AAC. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 23(1), 30-43. https://doi. org/10.1080/07434610600807470


Finkel, A. S., & Williams, R. L. (2001). A comparison of textual and echoic prompts on the acquisition of intraverbal behavior in a six-year-old boy with autism. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 18, 61-70.


Sprinkle, E. C., & Miguel, C. F. (2013). Establishing derived textual activity schedules in children with autism. Behavioral Interventions, 28(3), 185–202. DOI:10.1002/bin.


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