Although every person with autism is unique, social communication is one of the hallmark areas of challenge. Having a speech and language pathologist (SLP) on the team can be a huge benefit to help build skills and overcome obstacles.
At Communication Works, social communication is one of our areas of expertise.
Here are some favorite tools and strategies from our team of SLPs:
1. Build rapport!
It’s essential that the student/client feels safe and understood. Find out what they are interested in and use that to motivate and connect with them.
2. Understand that behavior is communication.
Speech, gestures, yawning, crying, and tantrums are all forms of communication. When someone is not able to communicate what they want or need, they might get frustrated or act out. Increasing functional communication can decrease challenging behaviors.
3. Make the abstract concrete.
Abstract words like “respect,” “responsible,” or even “listen” can mean different things to different people. Explain and break down exactly what is meant by providing specific expectations.
Set a child up for success by letting them know what is going to happen beforehand. What will take place? Who is going to be there? How long will it last? What is the child expected to do or not do? Discuss with the child so expectations are clear. Social Behavior Mapping by Social Thinking can be very helpful, download a free Mapping Handout.
5. Teach the hidden social rules.
Are there certain rules that the child might not know or might forget about, such as not talking in the movie theater or keeping hands to themselves at a school assembly? If so, review ahead of time as part of the priming process. Check out The Hidden Curriculum by Brenda Smith Myles as a great resource.
6. Make it Visual.
Lots of our children benefit from the use of visuals to understand language, help with communication, and determine what is expected of them. SLPs can provide schedules, scales, symbols, pictures, stories, and support with communication devices to build expressive, receptive, and social language.
7. SLPs play a key role in emotional regulation.
As part of the team, they can help determine how to increase social awareness and build vocabulary related to emotions. They can offer strategies and techniques for improving overall communication and managing emotions during stressful situations.