Reading and Language Delay in an Autistic Child

Filed Under (NLP coaching learning difficulties) on 01-12-2016

Tagged Under : , , , , , , , ,

Albeit I’m not an expert in working with autistic people. I did help one parent of an autistic child with his reading and language delay. Here’s how.

The problem:

I have a 9-year-old son with autism in a public school. He has made steady progress in all academic areas except reading. The district primarily blames this lack of progress on his autism/language delay.  Based on my work with him at home I have been wondering if he may have another disability which affects his reading. He has had all prereading skills for years and is sounding out CVC words. It’s been difficult to get past this beginning stage.  How could I find someone who could do a good assessment for further disabilities, since he has a significant language delay?  What are the necessary components of a good reading program?

the solution:

Your first question is how you could find someone who could do a good assessment for further disabilities for your son’s reading and language delay.  My answer is: with difficulty.  Wherever you go, people will give you generic info which won’t shift you forward and may cost you big money.  I don’t know how you could find someone, but I’ll tell you what I do know.

Autistic people are incredibly visual. They process most information from their environment by seeing pictures in their imaginations [=photographic memory].  Being highly visual is a coin with two sides.  Side 1 is that these people are immensely creative, perceptive, intelligent, observant, often artistically / mathematically / mechanically / technically gifted.  And they take in information quickly. Would you call any of those traits a disability?

Side two is that any of these traits can be a drawback if a person uses his visual skills overfantastically in the wrong context. Due to this your son has way too many pictures in his head to be able to concentrate on anything else!  People who are highly visual, and especially autistic people, often see so much at once that they get a total mishmash in their heads. And that causes problems.

One of the problems is language delay.

1. WHY your son has it: autistic people have their visual sense so overdeveloped that it crowds all other senses, hence leaves them less developed.  Just like when blind people lose vision their hearing and feeling are much stronger as a balancing survival mechanism, autistic people have the visual sense so strong that their hearing and feeling are often very low.

This explains why some autistic people don’t communicate well with their environments, don’t socialise well, don’t know what behaviors are (not) appropriate to display.  They often don’t have control over bodily functions [bowel movements, eating], nor of all the pictures they see in their heads. That causes chaos and frustration.  Because the overdeveloped visual sense leaves hearing less developed, your son has a language delay.  The development of language is linked to internal dialogue which autistic people have very little of or none, and to listening, hearing themselves speak, and hearing sounds around them.

2. HOW we can help shift it:

by helping him gain control  over his internal pictures.  If he doesn’t have control of his pictures, it’s terrifying for him. How should you do this?

1. Ask him to see an object [his favorite animal, toy, sports player’s shirt] or something he’s familiar with and highly interested in.

2. Ask how many pictures of this object / person he sees in his head at once or how many pictures of what else he sees at once.

3. If he sees many pictures of the same or various objects / people / scenes at once, teach him to separate them so that he sees only one picture at a time.  Make it a game. Tell him to move the other pictures to the floor, side, or sky for a moment to get out of the way of the picture of the subject you asked him to see in points 1 and 2.  Teaching this skill may take some days, but it’s the first step to success.  Persist even if it feels weird – every new skill feels weird at first.  Give his brain time to learn it.

4. Ask your son whether the picture he sees moves or is still.  If it moves, freeze the movement.  How?  Make it a game. Tell him to imagine that he’s holding a remote control and watching TV.  What happens when he presses the pause button?  The picture on the TV screen freezes.  Teach him to freeze the pictures in his head.  Once he learns that, he’ll be able to freeze them when he needs to describe something. To describe = to think about the content = to develop internal dialogue = to talk = to develop language.

And other things to bear in mind…

The fact that autistic people often have great ability to visually recall familiar things will help here. Another thing to bear in mind is that autistic people often aren’t able to visually construct pictures of new contexts. This also contributes to their language delay, because if they don’t see new contexts, they never learn to talk about new contexts = they stay forever stuck in their familiar worlds.

Did your son ever get terrified when you told him about going to a new place?  If he did, the lack of visual construct is the reason. He’s so used to having all his familiar pictures in his imagination that visualising new places / situations is not easy and is therefore scary.  The key to success here is learning to keep control over his pictures.  Once the visual chaos is gone and he sees pictures nicely, clearly, and still, he’ll be able to learn the words associated with the pictures and even add words into the pictures he sees.

Initially your son won’t have the vocabulary to explain how or what he sees, because his linguistic skills are weak and delayed.  But start with simple familiar objects: animals / toys / furniture / colors / food items / body parts / clothing / cars / gardening tools etc. and give it time.  Make it a game every time and make it fun for you and him. Fun will win half the battle!

Components of a good reading program

Your second question is what the necessary components of a good reading program are.  My answer is:
1. that the program teaches people to visualise the content of what they’re reading [= reading comprehension = remembering what you read after you’ve closed the book]
2. that people have still [=not moving] clear pictures in their heads.  This applies to seeing written words.  If the words or letters move around the page, reading will be impossible.
3. that readers hold their reading material at or slightly above their eye level instead of in their lap, because above your eye level is where your visual field is. Your brain will process a visual activity visually, not in feelings which are in your stomach [gut feeling] and lap.
4. that you implement this advice with your son at home, because reading programs in mainstream education will NOT tell you this.

Would you like NLP help with your child or a child you know who experiences delay in language or reading regardless of whether the child is autistic or not? Let’s talk about it.

Comments are closed.