Speech and responding to emotions

This series of short films shows an extended conversation  between Phoebe Caldwell (DSc, Expert Responsive Communication Practitioner who has worked with autistic people for 45 years) and Janet Gurney (BA, PGCT, Director of Training for Us in a Bus, a service based in Surrey that supports adults and children with profound and multiple learning difficulties and autism).

  • Speech is one of the most difficult inputs for autistic people to process and can cause high levels of stress, thereby further limiting the person’s ability to process.
  • Keep asking yourself: which is the best way of communicating with this particular person? What works best for them?
  • When working with non-verbal people, use a combination of body language, gesture and mime. This can also be a useful approach to support using speech with a more able person.
  • One problem with flash card systems is that some autistic people are not able to distinguish the object from the background on the card (checking for Irlen Syndrome can sometimes resolve this).
  • If using speech, keep it simple. Remember to “finish” your sentences.
  • Some people will learn socially acceptable signs without attaching meaning to them.
  • In an effort to conform, some autistic people will develop two distinct voices or personalities – one that conforms to social norms and one that shows how they actually feel. Such situations can result in a mistaken diagnosis of schizophrenia.
  • We must validate (confirm) negative feelings in order to support a strong sense of self.
  • Align yourself to how the person is feeling by using empathetic responses
  • Sometimes people who have no speech become able to speak once their anxiety level is reduced.