5 Ways to Build Language & Vocabulary Skills for Children of the Autism Spectrum

How well a child communicates, listens and understands others is greatly affected by the level of encouragement he/she receives when it comes to language development, especially during the early years (1-5 years old.) One of the most difficult struggles during early development that children with Autism spectrum disorders deal with is the ability to communicate effectively.

That is why it is ever so important to always be looking for ways to encourage and promote language and vocabulary skills. Fortunately, the following list should help you get off to a great start!

1. Dress Up or Role Play
Children with Autism sensory disorders can range from only slight difficulty to severe difficulty with developing his/her imagination. Playing dress up not only encourages imagination but also promotes vocabulary development. Playing pretend is a wonderful way to foster creative thinking while you introduce new words. One idea is to take turns dressing up as people from different types of careers and letting your child be the “boss.” If he/she struggles with the concept at first, try being the guide first

Fireman Toddler

2. Sensory Activities
It can be difficult to know which senses your child struggles with the most when they are young (1 to 3 years old.) Every child benefits from engaging in sensory play, though you will want to take note of which ones to focus on primarily as your child grows older.

Check out our list of sensory activities that appeal to all senses to get you started!

3. Legos or Blocks

Regardless of which option your child prefers, both can help to develop cognitive and abstract skills like joint-attention and language skills respectively. As a guide, be sure to take your child’s lead and be mindful so as not to be overbearing on their creativity and concentration.

 4. Read Books Together

Reading plays an integral part in a child’s early development, let alone children who struggle with sensory difficulties. Fortunately there is a huge selection of books designed specifically for children along the Autistic spectrum. These books have a special focus on developing language skills, imagination and even emotion recognition. Consider scheduling a specific time during every day to read together, for example, right before bed.

(Some great books to consider include: My Friend Has Autism, When My Worries Get Too Big! A Relaxation Book for Children Who Live with Anxiety, and The Feelings Book)

5.      Be Mindful of Your Speech

All children learn language best by listening to their parents or guardians. Especially if your child has any speech learning difficulties, make sure to try your best to be mindful of your pronunciation. You will want to make sure you speak clearly and more slowly as this will help him/her have a better chance of developing a wider vocabulary.


What types of games or activities have you tried that have worked to promote better communication skills?

What words of advice or encouragement can you give to parents who might be at a roadblock as they seek ways to encourage language and vocabulary learning in their little ones?

*This is only general information and is not meant for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical conditions. Always consult your physician or other health care provider about all health concerns, conditions, and recommended treatments.


By Jenna Baker. Jenna on Google+

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