Building communication, using expression and finding our voices is an incredible journey we take students on daily. Working with early learners with complex communication disorders can be challenging, but also extremely rewarding work. Finding speech therapy ideas to continue to build the voices of our non-verbal or verbally limited students is imperative to gaining those small victories in finding our students’ voices. The 5 strategies below are my go to strategies to ensure our speech therapy sessions are tremendously impactful. Also, included in this blog is a great Freebie Webinar “Communicate With Me !” It is easy to sign up! Just sign up with your email and you are on your way to even more great strategies! Let’s delve into those 5 strategies for working with students with autism to find their voice!

  1. Assess Requesting Skills

Requesting is one of the first steps in assessing our students ability to communicate. Requesting what you need throughout the day is a powerful communication tool and vital to successful communication. Being able to communicate your desires throughout the day is vital to increasing our students’ abilities to communicate in the world! When working with students, take some time to assess if your students request items they prefer, or show their preference for places or activities that they want. This is such an important step in helping our limited verbal or nonverbal students make progress in their speech and communication goals.

2. Get in the Know

Following number 1, knowing what students like, prefer and tend to enjoy makes therapy sessions that much more powerful. When working on requesting, make sure to know the preferences of your students to help them make the most progress in this area of communication. Knowing what students’ requests are helps determine what request we can help practice with our students in therapy sessions and for them to carry through their day. 

If a student is struggling with what they prefer, like activities or places, don’t worry. The solution to start developing these preferences is simple. Just use a preference assessment. Preference assessments can really help you determine what your students enjoy and that can help you work on requesting with them! Knowing this vital information about each individual will completely change your speech therapy sessions for the better!

3. Communication, But How?

The next strategy is a super important factor in determining how to best guide our limited or non-verbal students. We need to consider how the learner will communicate. WIll it be signing? Pictures? Using a device? Verbal Speech? Or will it be a combination? Now, this is not a simple task. This will require the team to discuss, use thought and trial to see what is best for each individual student. Remember the process is continually reflected upon and can change over time. Don’t forget to include the student in the discussion of how they will best communicate. Sign language is such a great place to start. Learning sign language can be a great tool for students with limited verbal communication. Just provide the right resources to help with learning how to sign for everyone involved. I have included a great tutorial video on the subject below! Check it out.  

4. Collaboration 

As mentioned above, the team members being in constant communication and collaboration about each individual learner is such an important step in increasing communication skills. If we are working on requesting, all of the team needs to have the details about what the student is working on in speech therapy sessions. If working on requesting, make sure to provide the strategies that are working, the type of communication the student is using, and preferences the student has for requesting. This way, the requesting practice can be embedded through the entire day. Share information about what you learned about the student’s preferences and how they request. Don’t worry if your team hits a roadblock, taking my Free Webinar, “Help Me Find My Voice” would be a great addition to  your knowledge about the subject. Just make sure to add your email to get access! The webinar has some great individual and group options!

5. Find Their Voice

Now that you have worked through ensuring you have all of the strategies to successfully prepare for what students need in terms of requesting, it is time to start working on requesting with your students! Using your knowledge of the students’ preferences either by the preference form or by engaging with the students, start building activities to help students request! Make sure to use what the students prefer in motivating students to request. Remember to discuss the activities with the team and this will help students find their voice! 
Now that you have discovered 5 steps to helping early learners with autism and other communication disorders find their voice, you are ready to start changing the world of your students! Looking for more great resources, sign up with your email for the great Webinar Freebie, “Communicate With Me”.

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