Dear Dr. B,
I have a child on the autism spectrum. I have a hard time communicating with him – he just doesn’t seem to “get it.” It’s so frustrating. What do I do?
Trying but Tried
I’m sure it is difficult – one of the main issues with children (and adults) on the autism spectrum is difficulty communicating. They often tend to be more literal and have difficulty generalizing to other situations.
This can be a cause of frustration and misunderstanding with teachers, coaches, and peers as well. Frequently, however, the child on the autism spectrum has no idea that the communication is going array!
I’d recommend that you strive to be as clear, concise, and as black and white as possible with your child. Break things down into very small steps. It also may help to have your child explain back to you in his own words what he understood you to say.
Here’s a hint: if you and I could say the exact same words but mean something different, then your child will likely not understand.
For example, when you tell your child to clean up his room, you may mean for him to put all his toys in the respective bins and empty his trash. But when I tell my child to clean up his room, I may mean I want him to make his bed and put his clothes in the hamper, but not be concerned about the trash. This is a breeding ground for miscommunication and frustration.
So when miscommunication occurs, ask yourself, “If I had worded that differently, might he have understood it better?” Then do just that. Try rewording your message in very clear, concise, specific terms. Then check for understanding.
Often, working with a speech/language pathologist on communication and socialization skills can be extremely helpful – not just for your child but for you as well.
Communication is a process. So is parenting. Don’t give up. Just the fact that you’re asking the question suggests you will be one to persevere for the good of your relationship!