Communication is the most important aspect in every stage of child development. It assists parents and teachers in coach, evaluating coordinates, and understanding children. Children with disorders such as autism may have great difficulties in communication, therefore the caregiver or the teacher in charge of the child must develop strong communication skills that will enable him or her to communicate with such children. There are several communication skills that teachers are supposed to have to have effective communication with children.
According to Owen (2006), there are four major skills of communication that teachers need to possess to deal effectively with children especially those affected by the autism disorder. The skills are nonverbal, verbal listening, language, and speech. When these skills are well understood by the teacher, he or she can combine them to have effective communication with the child. Communication becomes meaningless if both the child and the teacher cannot understand each other. The teacher is responsible for initiating the child into the world of communication and thus he or she must have all the necessary communication skills (Plumert, Ewert & Spear 2008). A teacher needs to communicate with a child to induce learning to the child and make his teaching more effective. Children with autism have different needs they cannot be able to communicate them directly as they are unable to talk or explain efficiently.
According to Knott (2008), verbal and nonverbal communications are the most important skills of communication that a teacher can use to communicate effectively with a child suffering from autism. Nonverbal communication is a communication skill that requires the use of gestures, pictures, charts, drawings, and photographs. Teachers are required to use them in the right way to make their teaching and communication to the child more effective. Children facing this disorder can understand the teaching more easily when teachers use aids of diagrams or pictures to explain certain points. According to Knott (2008), teachers must use items that will reciprocate the action of the child, items such as balls, trains on tracks, blocks in form of boxes, and puppets to assist the child to have direct eye contact with the item. This attracts the attention of the child and thus the child can follow and understand what is being taught.
As identified by Ironsmith and Whitehurst (2010), early childhood teachers especially those dealing with autistic children need to have good verbal listening skills, as they need to communicate with children who cannot be able to make a complete speech or talk. When a child vocalizes while playing, a teacher should imitate, exaggerate or respond differently to challenge the child to be more active. This enables the child to develop confidence as he imitates what the teacher has said, thus improving his communication ability.
According to McClain (2009), a teacher should be able to use a different style of teaching and speaking. Teachers should use different methods as they try to explain to the child the different concepts. Children with autism may not respond to what they are being told, thus a teacher must try to use various tones of communication to enable the child to respond to what is being taught. Teachers should combine the speaking and visual techniques when teaching as this assists to capture the mind of the child and following the teaching. Mary (2007) argues that teachers should take time when explaining and use the simplest explanation method for children to understand what they are being taught.
Teachers should be aware that children affected by autism are not good listeners and thus they cannot easily be able to differentiate ambiguous and non-ambiguous messages (Singer and Flavell 2009). Teachers should be able to send messages that children will be able to understand and make the right judgment. A teacher should repeat the words several times for the child to understand, they should let the child repeat the same words either as a song chorus or as a single word. This will improve the child’s listening and understanding ability. Teachers should also make use of written charts where children are encouraged to repeat the words after their teacher. This will enable the child to learn as most of the autism children tend to repeat what has been said.
Most children have difficulties in assessing accurately the message sent to them by the speaker. This arises due to language used to communicate to the listener cannot being understood. An ambiguous message implies that children will not understand the message as it is unclear and inadequate, therefore children will not be able to interpret and give the right response as expected (Arnold 2006). Teachers should use the right language so that the child will be able to understand and decode the message. Uses of simple words which children can be able to repeat make learning more effective.
Yong children especially those suffering from autism have a problem in developing speeches and language. Teachers taking care of such children use their language skills to assist the children to form complete sentences or speeches. They accompany the language with signs for the child to understand what is being taught. The use of sign language, pictures, and speeches assist the child to learn, as his or her mind is attracted to the pictures, thus a teacher can be able to explain the picture or the diagram to a point where the child will understand.
Plumert, Ewert, and Spear (2008) suggest that a child’s effect to locate and identify things accurately depends on the instructions given by the teacher. Children may not be able to look at the pointed object but, looks at the finger-pointing the object. Teachers should therefore use correct language to enable the child to follow the instructions. It is noted that young children do not take fully into consideration listening and therefore teachers should use objects to assist the child in decoding the message and be able to understand what he or she is being told. Teachers should use photographs or pictures in aiding the child to locate and identify the objects. According to Klein, Cook, and Richardson-Gibbs, (2008), for a child to be able to decode the information given by the teacher, he or she first gets the attention of the child by use of the picture or by calling the child’s name.
Teachers should be patient when communicating with children affected by autism. This is because children with autism have problems when it comes to uttering words and speeches. Teachers should be able to take time to listen and understand a child’s intention or what the child intends to communicate (Shatz and Gelman 2009). It is only when the teacher can understand what the child wants to say that they can have mutual communication. Teachers should know that not all children can pronounce the words correctly, thus they need to assist the children in coming out with the right pronunciation of words by repeating the correct word and requesting the child to repeat it several times. Teachers should use cardboard with written words of different colors to enable the child to read and understand the pronunciation.
Teachers need to communicate with the child’s parents as they try to assist the parents to cope and communicate with the children facing autism disorder. A teacher explains to the parents the need of using pictures and photographs when communicating with the children. The teacher should emphasize the need for parents to tell stories to their children at home to increase the level of concentration of the child and decoding of the information (Davis and Lange 2009). The use of pictures or photographs in the storybooks attracts the visual of the child. Parents should capitalize on the part that has attracted the child in explaining the story. Teachers should ensure that there is a good link between them and parents so that they can assist parents to understand and communicate with their children at any time. Teachers should explain to the parents various techniques that can be applied to assist the children in improving their communication.
In conclusion, it can be said that every early childhood teacher dealing with a child suffering from autism disorder must be well equipped with all communication skills as this will help the teacher to communicate with the children. If the teacher lacks good communication skills he or she will not be able to assist those children as he will not understand the right skill to use when communicating to them. Thus, it is important that all teachers be well trained in communication skills and how to handle various children facing communication difficulties.
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