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    Posted April 1, 2014 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Communicating through autism

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    Autism - What Can You Say?


    Today marks the start of Autism Awareness Month. With the new statistic that 1 in 68 kids are diagnosed with autism, increasing our awareness is more important than ever.


    This assignment is about autism and communication; it sounds so simple but it is not simple, not simple at all.


    I am a pediatric occupational therapist; over the years I have met many children with autism. While some have been able to communicate with speech, some have had to rely on other methods to communicate their wants and needs.


    Communication can be hard, even under the best circumstances. How often have you personally been frustrated when trying to convey an idea to a friend, co-worker or repairman and finally had to accept that you were having a failure to communicate?


    Imagine that happening pretty much every time you wanted or needed something. No wonder children with autism frequently get angry, really angry when they cannot get anyone to respond to their wants and needs.


    In therapy I use a variety of methods to communicate, most often I just talk; I probably talk too much according to experts. Apparently many of our non-verbal children not only cannot formulate words but also have difficulty understanding what is being said to them.


    I also use a variety of gestures and simple sign language signs to communicate; but those will only get you so far.


    I sometimes use picture exchange where the child is given actual pictures or symbols to represent what they might want and they present those pictures to get what they want. While this is good, it falls short when trying to communicate more complex ideas.


    Some of the children I treat have augmentative communication devices (talkers) They are pretty good because they can hold lots of information, but there is a lot of programming and training involved to become proficient with the device.


    Recently I have seen some apps for smart devices that enable a user to express basic wants, needs and ideas. I hope that these applications expand because smart phones are becoming commonplace and therefore more readily available than a dedicated AAC device that requires a lengthy assessment and costs lots of money.


    I personally believe that if parents, professionals and the public at large found better ways for our non-verbal children with autism to communicate we would see these children experience more success and less frustration in their day to day lives.

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