Communication & Autism

Posted on: February 22, 2012

Establishing some sort of communication is especially important for me with my son as he is non-verbal. As parents we all learn to ‘know’ what different sounds/cries mean, dirty nappy, hungry, thirsty, but as time goes on and your child gets older, you rely on their speech a lot more than you’d probably realise, at meal-times, when going out, to know how they are feeling, if they had a good day at nursery or school & most importantly when they are hurt or upset.

Its so difficult and often frustrating that i cant just ask A a question, how was your day? What do you want to eat? I must admit over time its got better – he now brings me his cup if hes thirsty or looks for biscuits or crisps should he be hungry. Its harder when we are out and he gets upset though – as i can only guess whats bothering him.

Because he is ASD, like most with Autism he is a good visual learner. By using visual supports he does understand a lot better and in time hopefully he will be able to communicate with me more effectively.

Visual supports can also be used with ASD people that can speak and also those who have yet to develop speech – like my A. They can really help with with both understanding and expression because unlike speech, visual supports are not fleeting and can be left where they are visable to both prompt and reassure.

When i went on the Early Birds course and through other professionals i have acquired quite a lot of information regarding visual supports and wanted to share that with others.

Visual Supports come in lots of different forms and should be chosen to suit the individuals needs and of course their level of understanding.

A great starter is objects with those who are at quite an early developmental level as pictures/symbols may be to difficult for them to understand or make any sense of.

Examples of using objects would be:

•Coat – to show that they are going out

•A plate/or fork – to symbolise that it is time for a meal

•A nappy – to symbolise changing time

Then once an understanding has been established, you can move onto photographs, for example;

•Photograph of nursery/school – to symbolise its time for nursery/school

•A photograph of the supermarket – to symbolise a shopping trip

Again once an understanding has been established you can move onto symbols.

Labelling pictures/symbols can also help your child to understand that all things have names, once your child has begun to associate the symbol with a particular place ot object, an identical symbol can be shown as an instruction to get something or go somewhere. Its really important to use symbols that mean something to your child, and to wait for definite guarantee of understanding before introducing more symbols as to not over stimulate your child.

We began to use objects of reference and still do now – we’ve had great success and A is much more relaxed and his anxieties have lessened as he now understands what we expect of him once hes shown a certain object, such as his nappy to get changed or his t-shirt to get dressed. We went through a very diffcult time of changing and dressing A, he would scream and put up a fight it was really hard and i just didnt know what to do – my portage worker suggested using a distraction or objects of reference – we did both and it worked – hardly had any problems since.

Requesting has also been and still is a challenge for A, we are looking into a system called PECS which stands for Picture Exchange Communication Symbols.

Children can be taught to exchange symbols for a desired object in the same way that we would teach a typically developing child to ask for things that they want – children can learn to associate the spoken word with a desired object and its symbol to use the basic skills of communication. PECS can be very effective if introduced correctly – and there are lots of success stories of children developing verbal communication after several months of use.

So what are PECS?

•PECS stands for picture Exchange Communication System

•PECS teaches children to EXCHANGE a symbol for something they like and want

•PECS teaches children to initiate interaction

•PECS can be rapidly required

•PECS uses symbols/pictures/objects

•PECS teaches children to express their need to be more independent

•PECS can help to reduce behaviour problems

•PECS supports and facilitates the development of spoken language

To find out how to actively develop PECS as a communication system you must do the correct research in order for it to work.

Please click on the link for more info

I have spent hours and hours making my own symbols for A, in order to make a visual timetable to provide more structure and understanding to A’s day, and also in the hope this will help him settle into school. I also intend on using these symbols to develop the PECS system.

I will upload some pictures of my symbols asap.

Its really easy to make symbols, although time-consuming. I have found symbols via

and i have downloaded trials from

Its a 30 day trial which gives you full access to their vast collection of symbols, these widely used in my area and very good (pictures as stated before are on their way)

If anyone has any other links to websites they have got symbols from please share in the comments box below. Also any experiences you’d like to share about communication with your child or if you have used/use the system PECS please comment.

L x


9 Responses to "Communication & Autism"

My daughter is always asking WHAT ARE WE DOING NOW all the time and found it hard going to places like nursery but since using PECS she’s a lot calmer and KNOWS she’s coming home at the end

She also knows what’s coming next so is not always asking what where doing next

She was given her PECS by someone at EARLY YEAES SPECIALIST and has ran with them she also changes them herself which gives her the feeling of taking charge

Great informative post. Love the resources links. Will do more research. Ed psych says my 6yo has visual skills of an 8yo. But my boy is bit sketchy with using symbols. Works well at school, not so much at home. Keep blogging

Our son has a pragmatic speech disorder and is also waiting for ASD assessment (Hv, CAMHS, Community Paed, Educational Psychologist); we had portage in the past but this stopped as at the time we thought he might be ok and sent him to a “normal” nursery instead and they said they were not able to be used at the same time.

Anyhow, my sister’s son is semantic/pragmatic, Aspergers/ASD (dual diagnosis atm) and they use a kind of routine board so that he is ok with what’s happening that day and “oopps” stickers for when things happen that are outside of his expectations. She and Al are in the process of making one for M at the moment.

M’s speech therapist has also suggested that his nursery use a choose board with him so that M actually does something as most the time he just stands lookign confused with so much going on — worst thing for us is we’ve recently found out a lot about what happens at nursey that noone bothered to tell us. Everytime hubby asked if things were ok, etc all we got told was fine (it’s only as hubby sat in on a meeting with speech therapist that we had not even beeen made aware was happening that we found out it was not).

Does anyone else use these?

Lots of very good and FREE Visual aids from:

I recently started using PECS with my daughter, it’s early days, but once she got the concept of bringing me the picture of what she wanted, it seemed to ease her frustrations a little. She uses me as a tool, and is constantly pulling at me to what she wants, and PECS has helped with this a little too. She’s not at the stage of forming a full sentence with her communication book yet, but she is slowly getting there. Thanks for your links, really helpful 🙂

We recently started using PECS with C and hes picked the first stage up where you put the symbol on the floor and put the item behind your back so he will hopefully give you the picture card in exchange for the item, however we are trying the next stage turning away from him in the hopes that he will bring the picture card to us but unfortunately hes not liking it and tends not to do it, im sure with a bit more perseverence and time he will grasp it so we can move on further. Im well impressed with what you are doing to raise more awareness for autism hun keep up the good work xx

I sometimes forget this aspect of ASD, as my son is very verbal. He needs to talk (sometimes thirty minutes straight to process). His talking presents challenges, but I must remember the other end of the spectrum, as well. Thank you for bringing the events to life, again. You sound like you are doing amazingly as a parent(s).

T was over 4 when he started to talk an it came from the dog we randomly adopted. He seen that dog and sentences came flying out his mouth, in proper context too. We still have a dog ten,years later an he doesnt stop talking. He uses the skills he learned from caring for this pet an applies those skills to people. Patience, love, caring, and importanly calming down.

WOW! great blog… informative and educational. I don’t have anyone who has ASD, but I am collecting the information so as to be able to spread helps….So much good info and ideas are being shared here! What a great forum! Keep up the great work!

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