Where Do I Find Success with Non-Verbal Johnny?
Today, we're discussing success with a non-verbal child with ASD as opposed to the high-functioning verbal kiddo. (See the past two-week's blogs for that kind-of-guy.) As SLPs we often have both levels on our caseload. We want to find out what these children like, what motivates them, where they are successful - in other words, where we can begin a variety of therapy strategies with this child so that Success Builds Success.
My perspective is: It's pretty much the same with both levels of verbalness, other than the non-verbal child isn't going to use his/her words to tell you. This child is going to inform you what he/she likes through behaviors, vocalizations and interactions. That tells me that YOU need to take the role of being a trained observer.
What you should observe:
- Everything about the child
- Everywhere you have the opportunity
What specifically you should observe:
- WHAT the child holds/taps/sniffs/plays with
- WHERE the child runs/sits/stares
- WHEN the child attempts interactions with toys/people
- HOW the child reacts when YOU present a new motivator such as: bubbles, tangle, light, iPad app, car, Thomas the Train, timer
- Does he/she get excited?
- Want more when you take it away (many times you do not get a response until you remove the stimulus and then you find out how much the child likes it)?
- Frightened (I presented Talking Tom to a child on my iPad the other day and he was scared-to-death of Tom)?
Keep in mind:
- Children with ASD change their likes/dislikes often and what is motivating one day will not be motivating the next. So keep your bag of tricks handy!
- Parents of non-verbal children often cannot identify motivators. However, always ask them.
- Not all children with ASD like primary motivators (food).
- IF you use a primary motivator, BE SURE TO CHECK WITH THE PARENT FIRST.
"So how do I use these motivators, Kathie?" you ask:
- You E X P A N D language with them
- You add TO them
- You make STATEMENTS about them as opposed to asking questions
- You find MORE and DIFFERENT KINDS of them
- You play GAMES, like hide-and-seek with them
- You hold them UP/DOWN, SIDE-TO-SIDE, TWIRL AROUND with them in order to gain joint attention, visual tracking, having fun, mutual laughter (as you're doing so, GRAB A DIFFERENT OBJECT AND MAINTAIN THE MOMENTUM)
You, the SLP, working with a non-verbal child with ASD is: tired, inspired, and admired.
"Speech pathologists make good things happen."