Improving an Autistic Child's Communication – Using Sign Language

Those who have worked with autistic children have also become aware of the need to help them improve their communication abilities. These children become easily frustrated when they have difficulty expressing their needs and desires. As a result, their parents and teachers become more frustrated as well. Fortunately, there are strategies that teachers can use in order to improve the communication skills of their autistic students.

According to a fact sheet developed by the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities "Students with autism or PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder) learn better and are less confused when information is presented visibly as well as verbally. is also important, for these students provide models of appropriate language, social, and behavior skills. be transported over into the home and community. "

Although this seems simple to incorporate into a curriculum, there are many factors that create obstacles for teachers trying to implement these ideas. While the English language is primarily a verbal language, information should be presented visually as well to ensure students' success. When autistic children have less advanced communication skills than their peers, it inhibits their interaction with one another. Most tools available to teachers require purchase and training, which makes it costly and not feasible for them to be used outside of the classroom.

Although these obstacles are present, there are ways that teachers can help their autistic students communicate better. Thirteen different research studies * have indicated that using American Sign Language (ASL) signs with an autistic child is a successful alternative teaching strategy. Results of these studies have shown:

oincreased vocalizations
osigns were mastered and used in the appropriate context, even in different atmospheres and with different people
oself-stimulation decreased
omost autistic children acquired better communication – even if they were labeled mute
osign language was superior to other communication systems for increased vocalization and mastered items for most autistic children

Why do American Sign Language signs work? By incorporating ASL into the classroom and by saying and signing the word together, students are able to absorb information not only verbally, but visibly as well. Many signs are also iconic, meaning that they look like the actual object they define. When both autistic children and non-disabled children learn signs (which can be done together), their communication with one another becomes easier. Non-disabled children learn signs very quickly and they enjoy it. In addition, ASL can easily be incorporated in the home, with no cost. Teachers can simply teach parents the signs their children are learning.

These studies have proven that autistic children can improve their communication skills by simply including ASL signs into their daily routine. They will be less frustrated because they will be able to better express their feelings, therefore minimizing the frustration of their teachers and parents as well.