Research suggests that children with autism are more likely to have a super-sized capacity for visual and auditory perception. Basically, they experience the world first and foremost through their eyes and ears, and are easily overwhelmed by how much information their little eye-balls and ears take in! You might notice that for many preschoolers with autism, they will either look like a tornado being pulled in every direction or they will fixate on one object or sound and block everything else out. Often it’s hard to find an in-between and usually speech and language is what’s ignored. When they are showing you signs that their brain is in tornado mode, you can be sure they aren’t taking in any one thing. This is comparable to being in a loud restaurant. When there are too many sounds going on at once, we aren’t able to pick out one in particular so everything is canceled out and we just hear noise. When a child with autism becomes overwhelmed auditorily they will often rely on their visual cortex to process the information. This means that when we are teaching speech and language, a child might become overwhelmed with the auditory input and cover their ears or try to find something else to fixate on. This reinforces this very important concept:
We have to teach communication skills visually!
This means very slow models of speech sound all up in their face! They should have a clear view of our mouth and be focusing on what our mouth is doing and the sound we are making. The slower the better! Talk in slow motion and pretend like you are mouthing the words to someone across the room. You want to keep the movements slow and exaggerate the movements. It also helps to be at eye level. This seems a bit much but the goal is no blow-offs; it’s a lot harder to ignore someone when they are speaking really slowly right in front of your face! So here’s a recap:
- Always use visuals
- No blow-offs: if they aren’t looking they aren’t listening
- Slow motion talking with BIG and OVER EXAGGERATED movements