With recent scientific research, it has been understood that children diagnosed with autism can “learn to speak after the age of 4”. So, what can you do to ensure that your child with autism learns to speak and is open to communication? How can you give toilet training in this process?
What Should Be Done to Support the Speech Skill of a Child with Autism?
1. Encourage your child to play and social interaction.
Children learn through games and this includes language learning. Play activities carried out in mutual interaction will provide enjoyable opportunities for you and your child to communicate. You can offer social communication opportunities by developing games that your child will enjoy. For example, you can sing and play nursery rhymes. During the game, stand in front of your child at eye level, this position will make it easier for your child to see and hear you.
2. Imitate your child.
Repeating the sounds and play behaviors your child makes will encourage him to make more sounds and communicate. In this way, your child will imitate you. For example, do the same when your child drives his toy car, or do the same when his car crashes into something; but don’t repeat it when he launches his car.
3. Focus on non-verbal communication as well.
Gestures and eye contact are fundamental to language. Use both your body and your voice when communicating; but body and voice must complement each other simultaneously. For example, you should point with your hand and say look, or move your head down when you say yes. Respond to your child’s actions by clapping, opening hands, or reaching for their arms. If he is looking at or pointing at a toy, hand it to him immediately.
4. Allow time for your child to talk.
Take your time, give your child some time to talk, increase motivation by looking hopeful instead of completing it right away. If he makes any noise or movement, respond immediately. This will encourage him to communicate.
5. Simplify your language.
Doing so will make it easier for your child to understand you and will also help them repeat what you say. If your child does not speak at all, try to communicate only with words rather than sentences. If your child can speak some words, speak in phrases eg throw the ball, open the door etc.
6. Follow your child’s interest.
Instead of disrupting your child’s concentration, you can follow him with words. For example, when he buys his toy car, support him with words by saying car. This will allow him to establish the word-object connection.
7. Support communication with visuals.
Technological innovation and visual support can sometimes get in the way of speaking. For example, he will be able to express his wishes and thoughts by producing words by touching pictures on touch screens.
How Should a Child with Autism Be Toilet Training?
Undoubtedly, “toilet training” is another problem that we frequently encounter with autism recently. This problem becomes even more difficult for our children diagnosed with autism, who cannot communicate socially and verbally. Children diagnosed with autism do not approach the changes that will disrupt their daily life routines very positively. This includes the habit of tying diapers. It becomes even more difficult for children who already have difficulties in verbal communication to acquire toilet habits. In such cases, children’s anxiety about toilet habits also increases. 7 important strategies that can be applied during toilet training come to the fore;
- Use clear language with clear and simple pictures. For example; use short, understandable and sympathetic expressions such as ‘toilet time’ instead of long, complicated sentences.
- Do not delay putting on underwear. Today’s diapers are so high quality that sometimes children don’t even realize they’re wet. If you dress your child in underwear, wetness will disturb him and accelerate his toilet habit.
- When your child wets the bed, close the issue by doing the necessary cleaning without overreacting and briefly stating that you will be pleased to go to the toilet next time.
- Reward success without delay. The reward given immediately after successful behavior reinforces the behavior. We have mentioned above how important visuality is. For example; Putting a picture of your child’s favorite toy next to the toilet picture and showing it with an arrow sign and giving the pictured toy as a reward after using the toilet will reinforce the behavior. The important thing here is that you reward even the smallest success in the beginning. If even a single drop reaches the toilet, it should be rewarded immediately.
- Use the award as a communication tool. For example; Your child may not understand the sentence “I’ll buy you a toy car if you pee in the toilet”. In this case, you should increase your child’s potential for success and reward. Increase your child’s fluid consumption one day at home, this will increase your likelihood of going to the toilet, and as we mentioned above, immediately reward even a single drop that is successfully raised to the toilet. Of course, you will have a high probability of encountering many accidents; however, without compromising your motivation, note the accidents and successes for a few days and determine the period of toilet need, thus expanding your range of action. The point that we want to express once again is that the award comes right after the success so that your child can understand why he received the award.
- Encourage your child who cannot communicate verbally. Pay attention to your child’s behavior. Certain behaviors may be a sign of needing the toilet. For example, your child can look at the toilet door, play with his belt, or upload a picture of the toilet seat to the phone to point it out. The important point here is that your child can understand what it feels like to have a full bladder and tell you about it with some signs. The comfort of emptying the bladder will also be a reward in nature. Family, caregivers and therapists should pay attention to the behavior of the child just before he/she goes to the toilet.
- If needed, professional help should be sought. Timely interventions will accelerate and facilitate your results.