Communication Strategies
of Persons with Autism

(Material adapted from Huebner, Ruth A. (2001)

Persons with autism and related disorders are known to have a relative weakness for giving and receiving verbal and nonverbal communicative information. More uniquely, they often have considerable impairments in their ability to attend to others. Because of these difficulties in communication, and the likelihood that sensorimotor difficulties also are likely to exist, joint therapy sessions with speech-language pathologists and occupational therapists are sometimes recommended to facilitate communication skills. Several strategies exist for encouraging communication within this framework:

Teaching Cause and Effect to Help the Child Understand Communication

It is impossible for children to comprehend communication unless they first understand the relationship between cause and effect. One example is the use of picture exchange; when the child presents a picture of an item, such as a ball or toy (cause), the child will receive the desired object (effect). If the child reaches out their arms to an adult (cause), they will be lifted up (effect). If the child points to a certain object, someone may retrieve the object for him or her.

Incorporating Motivating Materials to Give the Person Something to Talk About

All people are more likely to attend to and to communicate about what interests or affects them. For persons with autism, who typically have limited ability to pay direct attention to other individuals in social settings,incorporating vocabulary terms with which they are most familiar and interested can be an excellent way to facilitate communication.

Providing Augmentative or Alternative forms of Communication to give the Person a Means of Communication (PECS)

Since many persons with autism have limited functional, communicative, speech or gestures, they are significantly compromised in their ability to communicate appropriately and effectively with others. One widely used system to facilitate communication is the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). The premise of the system is that persons with autism often have difficulty initiating communication with others, responding to initiations of others and gaining the attention of another before giving their message. Thus PECS involves the person with autism initiating conversation to request highly desired items by exchanging a picture of the item for the item itself. Eventually a series of pictures can be used to simulate sentences. This means of communication can be expanded in many ways so that the individual can actively participate in numerous types of conversations.


Huebner, Ruth A. (2001) Autism: A Sensorimotor Approach to Management. Gaithersburg, Maryland: Aspen Publishers, Inc.

For more information about communication strategies of persons with Autism? http://www.teacch.com/communication.html