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American Sign Language And Autism

American Sign Language and Autism

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) provides those with speech and language limitations the ability to express themselves through signs and physical positioning. There are many types of sign languages, reflecting the influences of the grammar, society, social behavior and other cultural and social factors of different cultures. American Sign Language, or ASL, is one such powerful instrument for the learning of communication skills in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) or Asperger syndrome.

American Sign Language has very clear and well-recognized signs for certain objects and actions. There are many stages to learn of the ASL pattern. First, the stepwise signs are introduced to a child with autism and slowly more complex signs are introduced over the course of the training period. There are many item categories in ASL, including family, foods, time, places, clothes, feelings, requests and replies, amounts, animals, money, and many other topics.

It is imperative to use the proper sequence for learning sign language modules so that constructive and fruitful training sessions may be achieved. This therapy is very useful for those children or people diagnosed with autism, as well as those engaging in untoward and abusive behaviors, such as aggression, self-hurting, depression and tantrum behavior.

Benefits of American Sign Language

The syntax is very unique and different from normal English language. Through the implementation of ASL communication skills development, the following desired results have been observed:

  • An increase in positive energy in children who face a lot of problems with communication and feel very frustrated.
  • A decrease in the propensity toward aggression and disruptive activities by diverting the mind toward positive communication.
  • Improvements in the positive interaction of the mind and the stimulation of the parts of the brain useful for the development of communication, which may be spoken or sign communication.
  • A reduction in, or avoidance of, self-injury behavior.

It has also been shown that teaching with ASL does not interfere with the normal ability of communication because both forms of communication originate from the same part of the mind, and so stimulating that part of the mind produces even more desirable results.

There are thousands of signs developed and formatted in ASL to provide a depiction of the items, relationships and activities communicated.  Since the early nineteenth century, these have proven to be effective signs that produce very reasonable results.

American Sign Language uses very simple and cognitively oriented signs as compared to complex signs used in other languages, which can make communication more complex rather than simplifying it.




Suggested Resources:
Building Language for Early Learners Bundle
The Great 8 for SLPs and ASD
SLP & ABA Collaboration Series: Using Collaboration to Generate Best Outcomes… Quicker

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Parent Waitlist Program


November 02, 2023 | 12pm-1pm PDT

Journey to Independence

Community-based program designed to support families on waitlist

Being an RBT for me was extremely fun because where were you going to find a place where you can be completely silly without having to worry what people thought about you? This was the only job that made me feel like I could make a dramatic difference while being myself.

I also liked to be surrounded by people that had the same goals of wanting to help kids and the teamwork made the job much easier and more enjoyable.

Change and progress was the ultimate goal for our kiddos. The early intervention program was seriously only a miracle because I saw changes in the kiddos that from day one, you wouldn’t even recognize who they were.

Changes from being able to utter 3-4 words where they can only make a syllable from when they started, the behavior decreases in which kiddo that used to engage in 30-40 0 self-harm to only half, learning how to wait during games, table work where they use to swipe and drop to the floor if they had to.

My favorite was when the parents would tell us what amazing progress they were making at home. I used to tear up and felt for these parents so much because it was already difficult for them and now, they can trust and rely on ABA and the therapists knowing their goal was ours.

By Emma Rogers, BA, RBT

Mother Child
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