• Autism Help UK

How Does Autism Affect Language Development?

Updated: Mar 25, 2021

Language development varies greatly in younger autistic children. Some autistic children's language may develop faster whilst others are a litter slower. However, by having a supportive environment, you can help in your child's language development. So, here are a few tips to help you create a supportive environment.

parent and child smiling language development autism

The Concern

From the moment a child is born their language develops, but in autistic children this development can be a slower process. In the first year, you may find your child is more focused on looking around rather than connecting with others. This can hinder the language development but is common in autistic children. Though, according to a study by Lord et al (2014) on autism development, language development becomes more uniform at 6 years old and is developed better in a supportive environment. With this in mind, here are a few tips to help you create a supportive environment for your child.

Tips To Help

Building a supportive learning environment is a great way to help your child's language development. Here are a few tips to help you create that environment.

1. Language Rich Home

Having a language rich home can be a great way to help your child understand and learn complex language. By providing a language rich home your child will pick up little bits of information over time which will all help along their own language development journey. A few things you can do to create a language rich home include:

  • labels- put a label on objects to help your child see the connection between the object and the word

  • quotes- when your child is a little older, you can start putting up quotes around the house to deepen their understanding of phrases.

  • talk- sit and talk with your child and try to engage them in conversation. They may not connect right away, but over time they may start to engage (talking about something they love, e.g. Thomas the tank engine, may encourage them to talk).

  • reading aloud- spend some time reading aloud books with your child.

If you want to learn more on this, check out our 10 Ways to Create a Language Rich Environment blog.

2. Motivate Them

Motivating your child to speak is a great way to encourage your child's language development. You can do this by giving them a purpose to speak during everyday life. E.g. have a toy out of reach so they have to ask you for it. You could also give them options to choose between. E.g. ask if they would like an apple or some grapes.

You can start off small so they only have to respond with one word answers such as "toy". Then as their language develops you can push them further to elaborate on what they want, such as "the dinosaur toy".

3. Positive Response

As with most children, we want our parents approval and are more likely to try harder at something if our parents have a positive response to it. When your child tries to speak, give them all your attention and give them time to speak without interruptions. When they do speak, remember to give a positive response such as smiling and letting them know how well they've done. This positive association will encourage your child to speak more as they can see it makes you happy.

Whilst your child is learning, always remember to stay patient with them and not rush them past where they are in their development. Being impatient with your child is more likely to disrupt their language development than it is to help.

4. Have Fun

Show your child that speaking is fun! One way you can do this, if you feel they are ready, is by simply encouraging your child to say hello to other people across the street as you go for a walk and giving them a wave. You could also encourage your child to speak when you are playing or by putting on their favourite song and encouraging them to sing the lyrics with you. Show your child that speaking can bring them joy.

By using these few tips you should be on your way to creating a supportive environment for your child's language development. This is not only helpful for their ability to express themselves but can also help them when they socialise and build relationships.

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