When it comes to parenting children with special needs, and children with autism in particular, certain topics get more public attention than others.
There are topics that are openly discussed.
And then there are topics that rarely see the light of day.
Parenting a nonverbal child with autism falls into the second category, the category of topics that don’t get discussed nearly enough.
And if you are a parent of a nonverbal child with autism who has not yet started talking, even though all signs point to the fact that he or she should be talking by now, please know that you are not alone.
But knowing that still doesn’t change the fact that not ever hearing your child speak can hurt. A lot.
There are many parents in the same situation, but, as a society, we don’t talk about the challenges of parenting a nonverbal child on the spectrum.
And not talking about something is what leads to shame.
But we need to talk about this. Because parenting a nonverbal child is not a rare occurrence.
And some questions are asked over and over by the parents we work with at AnswersNow:
“Will I ever hear my child with autism talk?” “Will I ever be able to communicate with my child?”
Not always. But it is possible. Don’t give up hope just yet.
Our certified autism therapists at AnswersNow have collectively worked with thousands of families.
Before we created the AnswersNow Autism App, our autism therapists provided direct care to parents and their children living with autism.
We realized that it took a lot of time and effort to reach a large number of families.
And we knew that if more families caring for children with autism were to get the care that they needed, more had to be done to make autism treatment more accessible.
That’s why we created the AnswersNow app–to provide convenient autism support for caregivers of children with special needs
One way we are seeing this new technology have a big impact is by helping nonverbal children learn to talk.
There is an evidence-based process, it’s based on the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA), and we’re finding that it can be taught to parents.
The AnswersNow app is currently the only app connecting parents of children with autism with their own autism therapists.
Parents are having daily or weekly conversations with their personal, certified autism clinicians to get answers to their autism parenting questions.
Let’s focus on one of the most emotionally charged questions that we get every month:
“How can I get my nonverbal child to talk?”
It’s a serious concern, and it doesn’t have easy answers. But support is available, and parents using the AnswersNow App are seeing results.
One mother asked a question that has crossed the minds of many parents of nonverbal children with autism.
“Will I ever hear my child say, ‘I love you?’”
We worked with this mother for months, until one day, after weeks and weeks of diligently following her AnswersNow clinician’s guidance, this mother heard her son say those words that she had been waiting for.
The suggestions we gave this mom revolved around some key concepts: motivation and patience.
When we are successful fostering language in non-verbal children, it is almost always around an object or activity that is valuable to the child.
For example, a lot of kids’ first words are “swing” and/or “push” and “squeeze.”
Let’s take a closer look at these words.
For “swing,” imagine your child loves to swing and that it’s an activity you also enjoy.
So the suggestion an AnswersNow clinician might give would be to tell you to get your child situated on the swing. Approach them from the front with a big smile and arms extended to push them.
Right when you are about to push them, you say, “swing” and pause for a couple of seconds. This creates powerful motivation for them to repeat what you said. If they don’t, that’s fine. You just go ahead and push them.
If they do say “swing,” or any close approximation, you make a huge deal of it and push them.
It’s all about building anticipation then pausing and saying the thing/activity that’s about to happen.
The same goes for “squeeze.”
All children enjoy some form of a touch/hug/squeeze. Children on the spectrum may enjoy hand squeezes, deep hugs, pressure on their heads…you name it. There are as many joys as there are children.
You, as the parent, are an expert on your kid.
Again, use the same sequence as ‘swing’. Your child may come up to you, and you can tell they want some hugs, so you reach down to hug or squeeze them. But right before you do, you pause and say, “squeeze” or “hugs” and then wait a second or two to see if they say it.
This same strategy can be used for food, drinks, tv shows, iPads…anything that has a high value for them.
Remember: motivation is a crucial part of the learning process. Always ask yourself, “What motivates my child?”
We have learned, largely through the writing and experiences of people on the spectrum, that we ‘talk too much’ and that can be overwhelming.
So instead of saying, “Brian, would you like to go outside?” You would simply say, “Outside” and point to the door.
Most children on the spectrum have excellent visual skills, as evidenced by their excellent matching skills.
Their primary way of understanding the world is through visual cues.
Give them time to respond to what you say.
We tend to group sentences together, “Brian, would you like to go outside? It’s nice outside. You like to go outside. There’s a swing outside. Would you like to go later?”
Instead of stringing lots of sentences together, ask something once and then wait.
It might take your child several seconds to respond, but you may be pleasantly surprised by the results if you build in longer ‘pauses’ in between the questions you ask!
I love you.
These are words that many parents take for granted. These are the words the mother we mentioned earlier waited so long to hear.
If you are a parent of a child who is nonverbal, hearing those words for the first time after months of effort is a priceless experience.
When we started AnswersNow two years ago, we weren’t sure what kinds of results we could expect simply by pairing parents with certified clinicians via an app.
So far, what we have seen has been remarkable.
From improving routines to helping children get used to events, objects, and situations that used to completely overwhelm them, app-based ABA therapy is improving the lives of the caregivers who use it.
Take a look at how the AnswersNow App works.
The process is simple.
If you have an autism parenting question–any question at all–you can ask your personal AnswersNow clinician. You’ll get a response within hours, not days or weeks later.
In the end, it comes back to doing what is best for families.
Our approach ensures that families have a voice in the process.
There is no agenda when parents download the app and get paired with their best-fit therapist.
The work is focused on what parents need help with as they learn to parent a child with autism.
It’s not always easy.
But the caregivers we work with via the app are some of the kindest, most resilient people we’ve ever come across.
There’s no instruction manual for parenting a child with autism.
But you don’t have to do this alone.
Certified support is available.
You’re only a message away from your personal autism therapist.