It is good to know, that his mouth can produce speech like sounds needed for speech and words. But being able to list the letters or recite numbers is not talking. Especially with children with autism or autistic-like behaviours there’s a risk that they can get stuck with the simplicity of repeating the sequence of ABC or numbers, which often leads to echolalia and ‘scripting’, INSTEAD of becoming interested in the meaning of words and language and what we say to them.

Being able to recite letters or numbers before being a successful non-verbal and verbal communicator does not help a child to begin to talk or to learn how to communicate meaningfully with other people. On the contrary. It will make learning to read harder for him, as he will have to unlearn the letter-names and replace them with English phonics. But it is also confusing as it distracts from the actual meaning of communication. It’s the ‘naming-game’ that is the beginning of real speech, i.e. the child’s pleasure in pointing at and naming everyday objects and finding out ‘what does mummy/daddy call this?’

What developmental language strategies can I use at home?

  1. Look at what the child is looking at
  2. Use language in context, as the child will try to make sense of what he sees is happening around him
  3. Use gestural language to help your child to understand, i.e. so he can ‘see what he hears’
  4. Turn the child’s gestures into words, i.e. let him hear HIS gestures and ideas spoken in YOUR words.
  5. Don’t say ‘say’. Speaking comes from having something to say and knowing someone is listening who is truly interested and wants to hear it. Respond to your child’s GESTURAL LANGUAGE. Take the pressure off: don’t say ‘say’!
  6. Sprinkle ‘no talking dust’ on your playful interactions with gesture, body, facial expressions and tone of voice….
  7. Reduce complexity: Keep language simple (but without distorting your grammar), i.e. avoid long sentences,
  8. Maintain grammar, melody and flow: use correct language, i.e. don’t use grammatically incorrect language like ‘put in’ or ‘give cup’ as this affects its meaning and makes it actually more difficult to understand. It also feels patronizing.
  9. Repeat the relevant language or words in meaningful ways (i.e. not to ‘teach’ or ‘test’) and many different familiar situations
  10. Match language with child’s actions and feelings: be playful, engaging in 1-1 sensory and action games (shared attention), later also using toys (joint attention): Words + Affect + Action (WAA)
  11. Do what makes sense and what you usually do with objects, i.e. don’t put the cup upside down, – until child that putting a cup on your head is a playful game
  12. SLOW DOWN and keep a slow/moderate pace, so your child can follow and has time to process