Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder or other social communication difficulties can have difficulties initiating or maintaining interaction with others. They may prefer to play on their own, have limited interest in toys and are often described as ‘living in their own world’. Parents or caregivers often report finding it hard to build meaningful relationship with them and not knowing where to start!

More Than Words – The Hanen Programme® is a family-focused, social-pragmatic intervention programme for young children with ASD. It is aimed to empower parents to become the primary facilitator of their child’s communication and language development, and maximising the child’s opportunities to develop communication skills in everyday situations.

Here are some tips from the More Than Words® programme on how to take the first step.

Include your child’s interests – Get down to his level and be face-to-face. This will allow your child to see your face and to establish eye contact. Take a moment to observe what he is doing.

Imitate – Imitate what he is doing. Make sure you include his sensory preferences (i.e. the kind of sensations he might enjoys). If he is lining up the blocks, get some more and start lining them up together! When you imitate your child, he learns to start paying attention to you and to shift attention from a toy to you.

Interpret – For children with little spoken language, interpret their actions by ‘saying it as your child could, if he could’. If your child points or walks to the door, you can say “you want to go outside?” or “Charlie wants to go outside”. This is to give him a language model of what he could say.

Intrude – Join in playfully by giving him the blocks one by one, or hide the blocks and encourage him to look for it. This can be on the floor or hide it in your hand.

Comment – Comment on what he is doing while pointing at it. You can make some fun and playful sounds to get his attention. For example: “wow, the train is so long! Choo-Choo”.

If you would like to know more about this approach, speak to your CDC speech and language therapist today.