Finding a solution to autism communication problems

This post is about autism communication problems.

Sometimes our students who can talk are still missing some of the pieces to be 100% satisified with how their speech meets their needs. They have learned some verbal routines, but they don’t have enough flexibility with language to thoroughly manage situations.

Sometimes situations that other students can handle easily become huge problems for students with Autism or Asperger’s.

Here’s an example that Bethany’s teacher shared

Bethany was verbal and was able to tell her teachers if there was a problem bothering her by telling them, “I have a problem,” repeatedly until the problem was fixed.

Her classroom teacher reported, however, that the girl often came to school carrying with her the problems that had been frustrating her prior to her arrival at school. The school’s inability to deal with these problems in a manner satisfactory to Bethany meant that a lot of learning time was being lost.

There was really nothing anyone could do if the little girl had not been able to watch an entire TV show that morning at home or if her favorite shirt was in the laundry.

We suggested that the teacher’s assistant use some Post-it notes which she could keep in her pocket, and write (or assist this Bethany to write) the problem down.

We provided two colored boards labeled “School Problem” and “Home Problem.” Our student put her “problem” in the correct category.

Only those problems associated with school would be addressed by the appropriate person during school. The remaining Post-It notes were sent home on her “Home Problem” board.

This allowed the student to remember problems. It was a reminder of a promise that the most appropriate person would help her with the problem as soon as they could.

Within two days of setting up this strategy, Bethany was able to leave home problems out of her learning time and concentrate on what was going on in class.

A funny aside however; this girl loved the strategy so much that sometimes she appeared to have related or invented a minor problem in order to go through the process of writing down the information so she could post it on her chart.

Here’s a related thought

Sometimes when students on the Autism Spectrum are learning verbal communication skills, the language they learn is more like memorized chunks. It’s not as “flexible” or complete as the language of typically developing children.

That’s not bad. It’s the way they learn. They can learn more flexibility as time goes on. But it’s important for us to remember that there’s a possibility that they are using what they know that is “closest” to what they want or mean. It might not be exact or it might not totally or completely represent their need.

Some people would look at Bethany’s situation and label it differently. They may say she perseverates or call it a behavior problem without realizing the real cause of her complaints. It takes some detective work to figure out that a part of the problem was what was occurring at home.

This teacher did a really good job of digging deep enough to understand the whole situation. Adding a visual component to the solution helped Bethany overcome the gap.



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