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Q&A Session 8

Q&A Session 8 with the Director of The Son-Rise Program, Bryn N. Hogan

Topic: Speaking Capabilities and Eye Contact

Q: My son’s name is Max and he is 2 years old. He is suspected of having Autism (they haven’t diagnosed him with it). I would like to know some methods to use to help his speaking capabilities and also his eye contact (he seldom looks you in the eye).


A: Ed,
eye contact and speech are often the main developmental challenges a child with Autism has (social skills is also a big one). Eye contact is vital because it means your child is interacting and connecting with you. Also, the more Max looks, the more he will learn.

Three quick and easy methods for getting eye contact:

  • Position yourself at or below his eye level consistently. It’s less eye strain and easier to look at you this way.
  • When you give him an object, hold it to your eyes, so that he must reach out and grab it. You are right there, behind the object!
  • Whenever Max does look at you, celebrate him for it! Tell him how much you appreciate him looking. He may not know how special it is to you.

For speech, here are three things you can do:

  • When he wants you to do something for him (get him something from the shelf, tickle him, etc.), playfully ask him to speak to get it. This way he has a reason to speak. His motivation is the key here. You can say, “If you want a tickle, say tickle”. (P.S. if you are asking, and he doesn’t say tickle, still give him the tickle after a few requests. We want to be user-friendly and make being with us a desireable activity.
  • Make sure everyone is calling an object or action by the same name. If I call it “drink” and you call it “water” and mom calls it “cup” and a volunteer calls it “sippie”, then Max is trying to learn four different words for the same thing. That's much more confusing then if we all call it “drink”.
  • Be aware of how you speak. Many people run their words together, or speak without enthusiasm. This makes it harder for the child to understand what you are saying (if you run the words together), or the child may be less motivated to listen to your words (if you are speaking without enthusiasm)

With both eye contact and speech, enjoy yourself as you help him. Your sense of ease as you try to teach these skills is the biggest piece of the puzzle. No push, just enjoy being with him. If you are interested in more methods for speech and eye contact, we cover both of these subjects fully in our week-long Son-Rise Program Start-Up. There's a link on the left side of the page if you want to know more about this program.

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Q&A Session 8