2 Verbal communication

Please note: All tips in this section have been suggested by members of our community.

Special time

The best advice I can offer is to have a daily ‘special time’ where you play a game together for at least 10 minutes, and use the ‘say what you see’ strategy - where you put his thought into word as you play, not asking too many questions nor putting pressure on him to talk, and repeat repeat repeat single words and simple sounds as you play.

Opportunities to communicate

Often we do so much for the child that we they don't have many opportunities or need to communicate. This is where 'sabotage' comes in: puts toys in a place where your daughter has to ask for help to get them; give her a meal but no cutlery (so she has to ask). Think of opportunities to manipulate the situation so that your child has to communicate with you. When your daughter produces a 1 word utterance you need to add a word and model a longer utterance (e.g. child = ball, adult = blue ball).

Word games

As a specialist teacher, one of my many tasks is to improve speech and language development. A great game to help improve vocabulary is to play "articulate". The rules: put some words onto cards and place them out on the table. Then pick up a card, describe the word without saying the keyword. The other player must guess the word correctly.

Word Chums

Download a game like Word Chums from and learn new words instantly with their detailed meanings. Even we can challenge our family member, friend etc. to learn new terms with us. This is an exciting way to expand vocabulary more clearly and concisely.

Making conversation

I have bought a dry wipe white board and each day I draw a picture of a particular activity we have done or if something interesting happened. I draw the story and each time we leave the house I remind my son by showing him the picture of what happened and try and get him to tell people about it during the day. Or if people come to the house I ask him to take the board to them and explain what happened. He finds this really amusing and keeps his interest.

Attention please

To get Harry’s attention we always call his name before we speak. His brain works quite slowly so this gives him the chance to notice us and then prepare himself to concentrate on what we are saying.

Make it fun

Continue to make communication fun - that is the best motivator for someone to listen and communicate.

Ham it up

We find exaggerating our facial expressions and tone of voice really helps Tammy to understand us.

Make opportunities

People need a reason to communicate and the opportunity to have a go. In the nicest possible way we asked Charlie’s carer to stop talking for Charlie all the time and also to stop anticipating her needs. Charlie needs to be given the chance to communicate herself.

Too many questions

People learn lots of words from comments like “Look, the dog is playing with a ball, it’s like your ball”, and much less from too many questions or demands like “What’s the dog playing with?” “Who is playing with the ball?”

Key words

Izzy doesn’t understand very much but she does understand keywords, so we isolate and emphasise keywords ie, bath, bus, shops.

Use your words

Do keep talking. We say out loud the words Bev would be saying to us so she can learn what she would want to be saying, for example “Want more?” “It’s broken”

Level it up

Playing and talking are easier if you can see each other. Sit so you are at the same level.

Be clear

Our speech and language therapist taught us to give clear instructions (maximum of 2 information-carrying words) and use objects, symbols, signs or pictures to support words.

Make it mean something

The only sound Tracy can make is the ‘g’ sound. We have taught her to use it as a yes. When Ella was born (who has severe learning disabilities) she had problems with her speech. From past experience as a nursery assistant, I would put her hand over my mouth, and say the word, so she could pick up the vibration of the sound/s.

Rhyme bag

I keep rhyme bags for each nursery rhyme. The 'Rhyme Bag' contains small props to entertain and keep focus, for example Baa Baa Black Sheep - 'Rhyme Bag' contains: little black lamb, man, lady and boy character, 3 bags of wool (sew simple bags from satsuma netting and fill with short lengths of black wool).

Songs and rhymes

Songs and Nursery Rhymes are great for learning keywords in a fun way.


I regularly put things in my son’s pockets in the morning when he is going to nursery in the hope that he will find them and it will prompt him to tell someone about it. For example we went to the safari park recently and had some leftover tokens which had an animal’s face on it. He found the token later and was able to relay a wee bit of information to his nursery teacher about the day before.

Choice makes conversation

We find with Lucy that giving her choices encourages her to talk more.

Look at me

To help Aaron focus I hold up the toy we are talking about close to my eyes so that he learns to look at me when we are talking.

Cut and paste colours

To teach Guy his colours I cut out his favourite Thomas the Tank characters and glued them to plain card so there were no background distractions. He found it much easier to identify and remember the colours of the characters that he was already familiar with. We made up games with the cards and then when we moved onto asking the colour of other objects, I had a reference to prompt him with. If he couldn't name the colour of the sky, a prompt of "What colour is Thomas?" usually got results.

Avoid abstract phrases

Don’t use phases like 'soon', 'not yet', 'hang on' with people with autism, as these are often too abstract for them.

Figures of speech

My daughter is 17 and has high-functioning Autism. She has struggled socially because she doesn't understand metaphors and figures of speech, such as 'Every cloud has a silver lining.' She gets stuck on the meaning and will think, 'What cloud?' 'How can a cloud have a silver lining?' for the next hour, missing the rest of the conversation. We now write down these sayings as they arise and have compiled a dictionary of their meanings. By regularly reviewing them, she has now begun to use one or two herself.

Words and feelings

My son has ASD and doesn't always appreciate the effect of his words, for example: "I want to kill you." I always try to use "when" and "feel" - "When you say you want to kill me it makes me feel very sad.”

Encouraging communication

Often we do so much for people they don’t have the need or opportunity to communicate. This is where ‘sabotage’ can come in. Put toys or important objects in a place where the person needs to ask for them; give a meal with no cutlery (again so they have to ask). Find ways to manipulate situations to necessitate communication.

Be silly

I find a good way to encourage someone to talk is to do something silly or act out of character. I also find if I imitate my son it get his attention, and he then starts to imitate me as part of the game.


Check out Afasic for tonnes of useful advice for parents/carers of people with speech and language difficulty.

Be active

Being active and playful will greatly aid speech development. Acting out, using props and narrating the activity with enthusiasm is far more likely to engage. We would get a ball and pretend to kick it whilst trying to get our son to say the word ball. Much better than showing him a picture and urging him to repeat the word.

In a pickle

There are many great books that illustrate and explain idioms. Try In a Pickle And Other Funny Idioms by Marvin Terban. It gives a funny literal illustration and then explains the history of the phrase.


There are many websites that list idioms or have games to try guessing what the idiom really means. Check out Idiom Site or Vocabulary.

Memory or Matching Game

Write down idioms on one set of cards and their meanings on another. Have your child try to pair them up. You could also add in the literal picture of the idiom to visualize what the idiom that is being used actually looks like.

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Using these tips

These tips have been contributed by members of our online community. We hope they will give you some ideas to try, but if you need further help why not post a question to the community or talk to one of our community advisors. If you have any concerns about your health or the wellbeing of someone you are caring for, please consult a doctor or qualified professional.

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