Encourage Children to Talk to Themselves: that’s right, to themselves as well as to others.
Communication for children with ASD is difficult. That includes expressive, receptive, and pragmatic language skills. There is one other language skill that is not mentioned much with the autistic population, yet it is so crucial to daily living skills. As SLPs we need to assist children and adults with ASD to develop an inner voice.
“Permitting and encouraging children to be verbally active — to speak to themselves while engaged in challenging tasks — fosters concentration, effort, problem-solving, and task success.” — Alix Spiegel
When children have difficulty with words, like those with ASD, it only makes sense that they would have problems thinking and telling themselves something in words. Temple Grandin says that she “thinks in pictures.” The point is that Temple is using her inner voice for thinking about what is happening at the present time or predicting what will happen. This is focus/attention with words and pictures using an inner voice.
• Why train an inner voice
to comprehend language
to understand other’s feelings/emotions
to predict events
to direct negative behaviors
to deal with daily living
• When to start training an inner voice
• How to train an inner voice
use self-talk (statements about what you, the adult are doing)
use parallel-talk (statements about what the child is doing)
find Key Words in the child’s life: eat, work, color, play, build, pick-up, and use them often in the self and parallel talk
when appropriate, ask the child/adult, “what are you thinking about.”
when appropriate, ask the child/adult, “how do you think I’m feeling/thinking about.”
share experiences and talk about them
share real-life pictures/artwork and talk about them
write Key Words down on flash cards and go over them rapidly
play memory games
As typical developing adults we use an inner voice whether we are always aware of it or not. It’s our intuition, regulator, self-monitor, and even keeps us out of danger. We speak to ourselves to guide and manage our behavior. Children and adults with autism can learn how to use a self-guided inner voice that can be with them throughout their lives.