Communicating with-autistics and Aspies

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by TerryJ2, Oct 6, 2009.

  1. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    This is very useful, although it would be nice to see it in action. I also suspect it works better with-teachers and authority figures other than parents. ;) Still, it's worth reading.

    Communication assessment and autism

    Jennifer Mitchell

    When you have a relationship with someone who has autism, you become quickly aware of communication problems. Sometimes the person can speak words, but the intent is not apparent. Sometimes the intent is obvious, but the form of the communication is misleading. Unfortunately, communication difficulties can lead to social isolation and behavior problems. Communication is inherent. It is a lifeline to socio-emotional satisfaction and intervention becomes detrimental to social and academic success.
    Currently, there are no speech and language assessment instruments that evaluate communication. Many test the content (semantics) and the language form (syntax). Others are available that test pragmatic skills. Most of the testing protocols are inappropriate for determining communication goals and objectives for children with autism. The following is a presentation of a communication assessment for children who have disordered language and communication deficits:
    Every communicative act has three components, content, form, and use. These three areas are based on the language model developed by Bloom & Lahey in 1978. Since language is a part of communication, the model is modified to encompass language and communication. When examining disordered language and lack of communication in children with autism it is important to complete a thorough communication assessment.
    Three components of communication:
    An effective communicative act comprises three areas, the content/meaning of the message, the form/symbol for the meaning, and the use/function or intent of the message.
    Content is the meaning of the message. It is also called semantics.
    Form is the structural aspect that includes attaching some symbol to the meaning. The symbol can include the spoken word, a picture, or a sign. The form/symbol is effective as long as the communicator and listener both agree on the meaning. Another part of form is the length and word order that includes syntax.
    Use is the purpose, function, or reason for the communication. It includes pragmatics and social communication.
    When one of the areas is missing, a communicative attempt has been made but most likely was ineffective. If the listener and speaker are familiar, then the message may be translated. A communication sample can identify the student’s strengths and weaknesses in these three areas during communication. It will give the observer a picture of the student’s communicative ability.
    Behavior is communication. Much of the student’s behavior may be unsuccessful communicative attempts. When completing a communication sample, behavior should be analyzed using the content/form/use model. Once the missing component is identified, it can be taught and may well lead to successful communication. The goal is to determine what the student does to communicate and what is missing when the communication is unsuccessful. The student can then learn the missing component to make the communication successful.
    A communication assessment should combine observations, anecdotal information and parent information. The observer should watch and document communicative attempts throughout the day. If there are a limited amount of attempts (less than 10) situations should be setup to encourage communication. You can download a communication sample form in pdf format.
    After compiling the communication information an accurate picture of the student’s communicative ability will note strengths and weaknesses. Goals and objectives can be written that are specific or general, based on the information from the assessment.
    If the communication sample reveals an overall weakness in form, but strength in content and use, an objective targeting learning an appropriate form of communication can be targeted for development. Many students with autism understand the meaning of picture symbols but not use them when attempting to communicate.
    When the communication sample shows all three components are being used to communicate, it becomes important to determine which one is the weakest. If the student is lower in content than the other areas, building vocabulary can be targeted. When the area of use is decreased, then the pragmatic functions can be expanded upon. When form is the lower area of the three, then expanding the utterance should he targeted. Combining pictures, combining signs, or combining another symbol can address expanding the utterance for nonverbal communicators.
    Courtesy of
  2. Fran

    Fran Former desparate mom

    Thanks for the article.
    One of the emerging skills we have noticed in difficult child is the use of a tool such as a translater or interpreter. At present it's me. At times it's his easy child brother or father.
    He will call me and tell me what was said in a situation. He obviously wants me to interpret what it means and help him respond appropriately. He knows that he doesn't have an easy time responding in a moderate way. It's either not important enough to respond or it's over the top emotional response.
    It's a big success to me that he recognizes he needs help with communicating in a way that is not offensive and that he is looking for a tool.
    It is very obvious to us that their ability to communicate influences their job success and their social success.
    My difficult child has sabotaged himself by being over the top emotional about an issue that didn't require that heightened emotional response. He has reflected that he failed at jobs by his own lack of a governor over his mouth. What ever he thought immediately came out his mouth. Not very helpful in a job situation.

    Thanks Terry.
  3. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Thanks, Terry.

    I read this trying to mentally apply it to difficult child 3 and I'm having difficulty making it fit. I propose a fourth category which can overlap the others - Topic. It's not merely Content, it's not merely Use but it covers both to an extent.

    It's a big problem for difficult child 3 - what he chooses to try to communicate about. What he is capable of communicating about. Because not only does he only seem to choose to talk about highly specific things that are only of interest or relevance to him, but if the conversation drifts to something else he has great difficulty keeping up with it let alone knowing when to insert himself into the conversation at all, let alone appropriately.

    Communication also needs to be received. We may consider ourselves good communicators, but if we are attemtping to communicate with someone on the spectrum, we may fail NOT because we ourselves lacked what was needed, but because the intended recipient was unable to access it.

    Our biggest [roblems in teaching difficult child 3 to communcate more effectively, are primarily issues with his limited topic areas. He can develop all the skills possible in the three areas mentioned, but if he is simply not interested in communicating outside his own very narrow range of interests, then communication won't happen.

    He still seems to default to a belief that whatever he just witnessed/experienced, we did exactly the same. When pressed he knows tis is not so, intellectually. However, in the excitement of the moment he assumes we are all on the same wavelength.
    Example - he is watching "Funniest Home Videos" while I'm watching the news on another network. He rushes in. "Did you see that last one? wasn't it funny?"
    "Darling, I'm not watching 'Funniest Home Videos'. I'm watching the news. I didn't see the video clip."
    He continues. "Did you laugh when the dog jumped for the ball and missed? I did!"

    When he has time to really think, he knows I need to see it too. Often when he is watching a taped program he will call me in so we can watch a segment together, THEN he will ask me what I thought. But in the rush - the default setting is a problem. And there seems nothing I can do about it.

  4. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Yes, my son seems to think I have mental telepathy, too. Usually, we work it out.

    Fran, I'm sorry about your son, but it's good that he asks you for clarificaiton.

    Lots of info, lots of chances to work it all out. Like, forever.
  5. Fran

    Fran Former desparate mom

    No apologies required Terry. We are thrilled with his progress but I'm a glass half full kind of girl.
  6. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    we may fail NOT because we ourselves lacked what was needed, but because the intended recipient was unable to access it.

    Good point, Marg.
  7. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    My husband struggles with form. I laugh because after 20 years, I usually understand him perfectly well, even though what's coming out is disjointed, or the words he chooses are wrong for what he means. But sometimes, just to be a booger, I play "dumb" and act confused by his confusing speech and force him to acknowledge that what he's saying makes no sense. Drives him nuts. :tongue:
  8. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Yes, on good days, that can work. :)