From love to conflict to everything in between, communication between people allows us to express our innermost thoughts. Although, people with autism typically struggle with different aspects of communication and social interactions.
Communicating differently doesn’t always mean you’re communicating wrong, and it’s essential to recognize that as normal!
In this blog, we will discuss:
- What is communication skills training for autism?
- Why is communication difficult for autistic adults?
- What are three different forms of communication used by individuals with autism?
- How can adults improve their communication skills with autism?
What Is Communication Skills Training For Autism?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is commonly known for affecting communication, language, and social skills. Functional Communication Training (FCT) is a communication therapy that helps autistic people replace destructive behaviors with healthier communication.
FCT can improve verbal communication skills with gestures/signing, speech-generating technology, or pictures. By knowing how to communicate constructively, autistic people can have their needs met.
Why Is Communication Difficult For Autistic Adults?
Adults with autism often struggle with communication because of how autism affects social skills.
Communication can become difficult because of the following:
- Repetitive behaviors. This often prevents individuals on the spectrum from learning new things at the pace of their peers or wanting to participate in new activities.
- Special interests. Like repetitive behaviors, having fixed obsessions can make learning new skills or finding interest in what others care about challenging.
- Inability to connect with emotions in social situations. Autistic people are less likely to read emotions correctly, so they won’t be able to communicate back appropriately. This also leads to a lack of eye contact, facial expressions, and inappropriate tone.
While each person with autism is different, these are three main reasons that communication can be difficult for autistic adults.
What Are Three Different Forms of Communication Used By Individuals With Autism?
Individuals with autism have various methods to communicate effectively. As social communication can be complex or stress-inducing, alternative methods can be used to connect with the surrounding world. Three forms of communication commonly used are verbal, non-verbal, and visual support.
Verbal. People with autism typically are still able to communicate verbally. In some cases, an autistic person may be nonverbal. Depending on the severity of their diagnosis, some can communicate similarly to their peers, and others struggle with verbal expression.
Nonverbal. As verbal communication can become a struggle for people with autism, they often turn to behaviors or actions to communicate their thoughts. Nonverbal communication includes:
- Sign language.
- Crying and expressive sounds.
- Pointing or moving someone’s body towards an object or place.
Visual support. One of the most popular visual support technologies is the picture exchange communication system- where images help an individual communicate without words. Eventually, this helps build communicative skills and can help people form short sentences or questions based on the images used. Augmentative communication devices are also commonly used- such as tablets or phones. These communicate virtually and visually instead of verbally.
How Can Adults Improve Their Communication Skills With Autism?
Communicating constructively is essential for people with autism. Calmly and correctly talking about their feelings will build respectful relationships and increase social awareness. Adults with autism can improve their communication skills in three ways:
- Self-reflect. Taking time to reflect and “think before you speak” will help people with autism understand their and their counterparts’ perceptions. By separating their preferences and feelings from the situation, they may be able to consider others for better social awareness. Taking time to self-reflect can also help autistic people identify their wants and needs without high emotions.
- Identify Boundaries. Autistic people need to identify their core values and relationship goals. Solidifying this will help them know what they are communicating and what they expect from others.
- Advocate and Disclose. Self-advocacy is important! If an autistic person feels upset or hurt by another, they should disclose this to their counterpart. Speaking up creates healthy boundaries and allows people to continue aligning their core values.
Communication continues to be a staple in healthy, kind relationships. By improving communication, adults with autism will improve their relationships, social skills, and knowledge of self.