Our son was non-verbal until the age of 3 and need-based verbal until the age of 5. Now, at the age of 15 years, he speaks both fluently and effusively.
Here are ten things that we did to help him speak:
- Exposing him to one language only (based on the child psychiatrist’s suggestion). Our mother tongue is Marathi but we chose English so that he could communicate outside the home as well. We spoke in English, read books in English, listened to songs in English, and watched English cartoons. We made it a point not to expose him to any other language while he was learning.
- Doing a running commentary of everything we did throughout the day. For eg: I am preparing a glass of milk for you. Now I am opening the cupboard (point to the cupboard), and taking out a glass (point to the glass), and putting it on the kitchen counter (point to the counter). Now I am opening the refrigerator (point to the refrigerator), and taking out the jar filled with milk (point to the jar and to the milk inside), and pouring the milk in the glass (point to the action).
- Talking to him like an adult.
- Asking him questions and encouraging (but not forcing) him to answer.
- Converting one-word answers into full sentences. For eg: If he said, “Water” to ask for water, then I would ask him, “Do you want water to drink?” and wait for response. If he nodded, I would encourage him to answer verbally, “Yes?” and wait for an answer. If he answered, “Yes” then I would elaborate his answer and tell him that the right way to ask for water is to say, “I want water to drink.”
- Establishing concepts and connections. For eg: Asking “Why do you want water to drink? Is it because you are thirsty?” This helped him connect the feeling of thirst with the word “thirsty” and established the concept that he felt the need to drink water when he was thirsty.
- Giving him an opportunity to ask for things before providing them to him.
- Using his interests to engage him. My son was crazy about cars (still is), so we used his interest in cars to increase his vocabulary and encourage him to speak. We talked about cars, we read books about cars, we watched movies about cars, and we told him stories about cars.
- Showing him picture books and explaining what was happening in the pictures.
- Reading books out loud to him.
Hope these tips help you help your child with autism to speak too.