A Picture Can Paint A Thousand Words.

How visual clues help navigate the two-way street that is communication for people with autism. Dr David Preece, Senior Lecturer at the University of Northampton blogs about the challenges of communication for those with autism.

Communication is another core area of difficulty and difference in autism, and it is an area that is closely linked to the social issues I wrote about yesterday Because — like social interaction — communication isn’t something you do by yourself. It is a two-way street, and requires someone else to be involved.

Again, just like social interaction, there is a wide continuum of communication behaviour in autism. Some people with autism may never talk — though this doesn’t mean they can’t communicate. Some may talk an awful lot — though this doesn’t mean they are effective communicators, as they may be oblivious to whether the listener is interested in (or even listening to) what they are saying.

Just because someone is saying something doesn’t necessarily mean they understand what they are saying!

What we have learned about autism is that processing language and words can be difficult regardless of verbal ability. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and this is particularly true in autism, where visual processing skills seem to be very important. Presenting information visually, and using visual supports to identify where things are, what to do where, and what is coming next, can reduce stress for all people with autism, regardless of their verbal ability.

This means working with the person with autism to identify what’s appropriate for them- the written word may work for some, but others might need photos, or even objects. As Benjamin Franklin said, ‘Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I’ll remember, involve me and I’ll understand’.

Share your experiences with us on Twitter.