- My child has autism – how might an AAC system help them?
About half of people with autism do not develop enough speech to meet their needs. Children with autism may have difficulties both understanding and producing speech. An AAC system offers an alternative means of communication that may help some children manage or overcome their communication difficulties. The right AAC system can help a child with autism meet their communication needs, improving their communication, independence, interaction with others and quality of life.
- My child has autism – is there anything that can be done to help them speak?
Sometimes, using an AAC system can help increase a child’s speech production. It is important to note that an AAC system will not hinder speech production in children with autism, nor will it harm potential speech development.
- I have seen some children with autism using picture symbols, what is this?
A picture symbol system is an aided AAC system that is designed to build up children’s functional language skills. One commonly used system is the Picture Exchange Communication System, or PECS, (Bondy & Frost, 1995). The child learns how to exchange a picture of an item that they want for the actual item. They are encouraged to request items spontaneously. As they progress, children learn how to make sentences, answer questions, produce comments and use adjectives.
This kind of system is generally effective for children and adults with autism. Sometimes, it can help increase speech in children with autism and how they interact with new people. It can also help curb problematic behaviours.
- My child has a symbol system but doesn’t want to use it. Should we be doing something else?
A child may take a long time to learn how to use a symbol system. Imagine an adult picking up a completely new instrument and then being expected to perform on stage after only two lessons! Pay attention to the environments your child is in – in some they may use the system spontaneously, and in others may not seem motivated to use it. Try modelling language using the symbol system and give your child plenty of opportunities to communicate their choices and opinions. Make the opportunity to talk to your child’s speech and language therapist or teacher about their communication patterns and preferences. It is also a chance to talk through any questions you may have about the symbol system.
- Are there any organisations that can help me understand autism?
The National Autistic Society supports people with autism and their family, carers, colleagues and employers. It can provide a wealth of information about education, health, employment and benefits.
Treating Autism runs a membership society, local support groups and national conferences. It advocates and lobbies for a biomedical approach to autism.
Ambitious about Autism runs campaigns about autism and offers training and consultancy to parents, teachers and professionals who work with children with autism. It also runs Talk about Autism, an online community that shares experiences, provides support and discusses autism.
The Autism Research Centre operates at the University of Cambridge. The Centre investigates biomedical causes of autism and provides links to their current research and ongoing projects. Volunteers with a diagnosis of autism are invited to participate in research.
Research Autism provides information about interventions for autism.