The essence of communication is the ability to use symbols (i.e., spoken words, nonverbal gestures) and to convey to or receive a feeling or idea from another person (Paul, 2005). Messages are conveyed in countless ways, such as speech, sign language, written words, facial expressions, gestures, Braille, signs or symbols, and body movement. Hulit and Howard (2006) note that “communication is so much a part of the human experience that we are constantly sending and receiving messages” (p. 3). Prizant and Wetherby (2005) describe social communication as the use of “conventional and socially appropriate verbal and nonverbal means to communicate for a variety of purposes across social settings and partners” (p. 925). Social communication requires some level of understanding of social settings and events and the ability to continually monitor and engage in exchanges with others.
Communication consists of several components, making it a complex skill to learn. These components include joint attention, symbol use and communicative intent, and language (see Figure 6.1).
Social-communication impairments often lead to a variety of challenging behaviors. Addressing the social-communication needs of students with ASD is an important component of promoting positive behavior
Anderson was a full-term baby delivered with no complications. Anderson’s mother reported that as a baby and toddler, he was healthy and his motor development was within normal limits for the major milestones of sitting, standing, and walking. At age 3 he was described as low tone with awkward motor skills and inconsistent imitation skills. His communication development was delayed; he began using vocalizations at 3 months of age but had developed no words by 3 years.
Anderson is a 3-year-old boy with ASD who was referred to a university speech and hearing center by a local school district. He attended a morning preschool at the university center for one year in addition to his school placement.
Anderson communicated through nonverbal means and used communication solely for behavioral regulation. He communicated requests primarily by reaching for the communication partner’s hand and placing it on the desired object. When cued, he used an approximation of the “more” sign when grabbing the hand along with a verbal production of /m/.
He knew about 10 approximate signs when asked to label, but these were not used in a communicative fashion. Protests were demonstrated most often through pushing hands. Anderson played functionally with toys when seated and used eye gaze appropriately during cause-and-effect play, but otherwise eye gaze was absent. He often appeared to be non-engaged and responded inconsistently to his name.
Please use your text and at least (1) other source to answer the following questions:
1. What phase of joint communication is Anderson and what would you recommend to help him progress?
2. What is your recommendation for increasing Andersons production ability?
3. Discuss your rationale for using sign language vs verbal expression.