Please Note: The content of this post addresses needs of all students with communication or learning challenges. We learn so much from our students with ASD to help us teach other students more effectively. Being a great Communication Partner is universal.
Do we actually address autism communication training backwards?
Are we teaching the wrong person?
It’s so easy to focus on the child and the child’s needs or the child’s problems. We test the child. We evaluate a student’s behavior. We take data on his or her behavior changes and we create graphs and charts to show what that student does or does not do.
In reality, Communication Partners, no matter if they are adults or other students, are a significantly important part of how the child with ASD will manage communication situations.
You are a Communication Partner
Do you think of yourself like that? Most parents or educators don’t think of themselves in that way. They don’t think of themselves as partners. Partnership suggests that both parties are working toward a mutual goal.
When you think about it, autism communication success depends a lot on how the Communication Partners do their job.
- How clearly does the partner speak?
- Does she get the student's attention before communicating?
- What is the speed of communication exchanges?
- Does the partner recognize the autistic student’s communication strengths and weaknesses?
- Does she make accommodations for them?
- How does the communication partner handle communication breakdowns?
- Does he realize there are breakdowns?
Imagine your own personal experience with communication
Let’s move away from autism communication for just a minute.
We live in a world where people speak many different languages.
Most of us have had an experience trying to communicate with someone who does not speak the same language.
You are the Communication Partner, so, what do you do?
Do you keep saying the same thing over and over even if you know the other person does not speak your language?
Or do you try to do something different?
- Start to use more gestures?
- Point to what you want?
- Hold up objects?
- Find some pictures or something in print somewhere that helps communicate your message.
- Maybe you pull out a translation dictionary or find an interpreter to fix the situation.
The point is, you try to figure out what adjustments you need to make so you and the other person can connect. You just naturally do it. No one has to tell you what to do. Most people just figure out what to try.
How does this compare with autism communication?
ASD is not that different except for one thing.
Frequently, communication partners don’t recognize the breakdowns. They assume the communication interaction is working better than it really is.
It’s not every partner and it’s not all the time, but this challenge identifying that there is a problem is very common.
What any autistic student is able to do or not do is directly related to the effectiveness of the Communication Partner.
Yet, most intervention is aimed at the autistic individual, not the Communication Partner.
Do we need to re-think autism communication training?
It's common for students to receive speech therapy or some kind of communication training.
What about the Communication Partners? What training do they need to receive?
P.S. I've been recently writing a lot about Communication Partners.
In case you haven't heard yet, I have a new book titled
Autism Success Secrets
In this new book, you'll learn more about Communication Partners, the Columbo Technique, lessons from a 2000 pound horse and lots more.
Kim just sent me a note after reading the book. Here's what she said:
- Page 19 Visual is extraordinary! Such a phenomenal illustration to help others understand.
- Page 26 is so beautiful, simple yet complex, and true. Made me cry.
- The "go cart analogy" is so perfect!!!!!
- I busted out laughing at page 85 visual.
- Chapter 8 is a REALLY good and insightful chapter.
I can't wait to send my new book to you so I can hear which parts you like the best!