• Understanding Autism from the Inside

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Better Communication Can Mean Better Behavior in Children with Autism

Communication

Having a child with an autism spectrum disorder can present many challenges to parents, and caregivers. One of these challenges is behavior. Research has shown that a child’s ability to communicate may directly impact their behavior.

Many Children with Autism Struggle with Language Skills

Your child is trying to tell you something, pointing, grunting, saying the same word or words over and over again—but it makes no sense to you. He/she runs, kicks, screams, stomps their feet, throws things, bangs their head, and tries to hit you, but you still do not understand what they want. And—now a meltdown is in full swing. When a child with autism tries to express themselves but is ineffective at conveying their wants, needs, or emotions behavioral problems can arise. These children may become aggressive, throw tantrums, or try to hurt themselves or others due to their frustration at not being understood. Helping these children to learn how to communicate will not only lead to better behaviors but also facilitate better social skills. Learning to communicate more effectively will allow the child to interact with his/her peers, be less frustrated, and at the same time work to build a more extensive vocabulary.

What Can Help Autistic Children Communicate Better?

Talk to your child’s autism treatment team as soon as you notice him/her struggling with communication and/or behavior problems. A speech therapist can work with your child and family to develop goals to increase language skills and decrease your child’s frustrations. Therapy plans can include teaching your child proper social interactions, improve eye-contact, or learn to communicate using picture boards. Behavioral therapist can also be of help addressing behavior issues arising from frustration and verbal language difficulties.

Dealing with an aggressive child who is exhibiting frequent tantrums, or meltdowns can be difficult, but there is hope. Your child may be experiencing extreme frustration; trying to be understood when no one around him/her understands. With an absence of options (for communicating) the child lashes out, usually at the closest person to them—their parents, siblings, or caregivers. There are, however, options. Seeking out what therapies work best for you and your family will go a long way in helping to sooth your child’s frustrations. No one likes to feel unheard or misunderstood and your autistic child is no exception.

 

Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert, contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, on the autism spectrum.