Frequently Asked Questions

My child has been diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). How can I help his communication development?

When your child receives a diagnosis of ASD, you likely feel a range of conflicting emotions, including perhaps relief, anxiety, dismay, grief, determination and a whole host of others. It's helpful at this stage to remember two things.
  • Your child remains the same person he was before you had a diagnosis. He is unique, as is any child, and different from every other person with this disorder.
  • The diagnosis should mean that you have easier access to professional help to guide you as you help him develop to be the best he can be.
In terms of communication, he will develop at his own pace, within some guidelines specific to his difficulties. You can help him by understanding the reasons for his diagnosis, and how his communication development may differ from that of most children. 

Research the communication features of autistic apectrum disorder, which may include a delay in developing language skills, in particular the social aspects of communication. For example: 
  • Your child may find it hard to understand how another person sees the world, and misunderstand or fail to notice their gesture, facial expression and tone of voice. 
  • He may play with toys in repetitive ways, perhaps lining them up rather than using them for imaginative play. 
  • He may find it hard to understand words and sentences, and may repeat words or phrases he hears without fully appreciating their meaning.
  • He may find it hard to cope with sudden changes in routine, becoming anxious as he cannot understand what to expect.
The first step in helping him is to understand where he is with his development.  Visit the National Autistic Society website for a useful description of the stages of communication that your child moves through as he develops. When you see the stage your child has reached, you can work out what the next steps should be, and help him move towards the next stage.

It is much more important to identify the stage your child has reached, and therefore the next stage he is moving towards, than to concentrate on his chronological age.

Help your child to develop his language skills through the five keys to language learning:
  • how to attend to what happens in the world around him
  • how to listen carefully and identify things he hears
  • how to understand simple words, then short phrases, then longer sentences
  • how to use 'pretending', such as pretending to eat play food, to learn about symbols (language is a set of symbols)
  • how to use words himself both to get what he wants and needs, and also to interact socially with other people.

I write this Communication Blog

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Frances Evesham: on the run around Europe for years, with only a husband, three children and a succession of opinionated cats to keep me out of trouble. Somerset stopped me in my tracks. Now I walk in the country and breathe sea air. I will get around to cleaning the house soon.

I've been a speech therapist, a professional communication fiend and a road sweeper. I sometimes work in the criminal courts to uphold fair questioning of people with special needs.

I smell the roses, lavender and rosemary as I cook with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of chillies in the other. Writing historical romances and books on communication leaves enough time to enjoy bad jokes and puns and wish I’d kept on with the piano lessons.