Using Communication Temptations to Motivate Communication

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Many children do not need to communicate as everyone in their environment thinks for them, gives them what they want or even anticipates their needs. When you create a communication enriched environment it is VITAL you create as many opportunities as possible for the child to communicate.

In many ways it is immersing the child in a communication abundant environment. This will mean creating as many visuals, schedules, activities and routines as possible to promote communication. The easiest way to do this is look around the environment at home and school, and think of all the times in the day when you could model, promote, encourage or support communication.

Rewards are an important element of communication. Children with autism spectrum disorder need to understand the functionality of communication and have a motivator to communicate. In the early stages of developing communication the activity should always be rewarding. So always remember to make activities fun, fast and rewarding.

Activities that are particularly desirable or intriguing for your child are more likely to ‘tempt’ him, or provide him with sufficient motivation, to communicate with another person. Encourage verbal children to speak, and non-verbal children to use visuals/symbols/words to communicate.

Some ideas to tempt your child:

  • Bubbles.
  • Balloons.
  • Thomas, Bob the Builder, The Wiggles or whatever your child loves.
  • Put desirable items out of your child’s reach so that they are encouraged to ask for them.
  • Swinging, ‘Ready, set, go!’ and ‘One, two, three, go!’ games.
  • Put toys into clear plastic containers that your child is unable to open and needs to request.
  • SLOW down, wait at the door before you open it, allow your child an opportunity to say “Open” or “Open door.”
  • Favourite DVDs, videos.

12 Ideas to Provide Opportunities to Communicate

  1. Give container with lid on too tight so the child needs to ask for “HELP”.
  2. When turning tap on/off, say “ON/OFF”. Wait for them to say.
  3. Count wherever possible, e.g. toys when packing away, children, etc.
  4. Sing songs when doing activities (“Everybody finish”, etc).
  5. Give activity with a part missing so they need to ask for “HELP”.
  6. Remove plug from power for computer or DVD player, then they need to ask for “HELP”.
  7. Eat food (they like) in front of child and don’t give to them any until they request a taste.
  8. Wherever possible don’t anticipate their communication.
    Wait for them to communicate first, rather than pre guessing their needs (e.g. hands dirty, want to wash, wait for them to look at you, and indicate want of help, etc).
  9. Put favourite toy into a container. Have the child request “OPEN”.
  10. Have the child on your knee, drop them back and have them request “UP”.
  11. Give the child tickles, bubbles, etc and have them request “MORE”.
  12. Sing the child’s favourite song and have them request “AGAIN”.

10 Key Rules to a Successful Communication Programme

  1. Ensure consistency between environments.
  2. Be eclectic; try lots of different ideas and strategies.
  3. Remember not every strategy works for everyone.
  4. Never assume incompetence.
  5. Always model good communication practices.
  6. Make communication functional.
  7. Make communication fun and enjoyable.
  8. Use rewards and motivators.
  9. Ensure the child has communication enriched environments.
  10. Be persistent and REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT.

Every strategy, no matter how bizarre, is worth a try and if at first you don’t succeed then try and try again. No one child with autism spectrum disorder is the same so not all strategies will work with every child – so think carefully of how to adapt a strategy to suit the individual. There is no one way to teach communication so be eclectic and try different ideas.

Top Communication Resource

Practical Communication Programmes: By Jo Adkins and Sue Larkey

Communication is the biggest area of skill deficits in nearly all children on the autism spectrum – whether it is little to no verbalisation, social skills or simply understanding spoken language. This book offers hundreds of ideas and strategies to improve communication skills – including picture exchange, teaching literacy skills, and emotions. It includes activities and resources you can photocopy.