Teaching Children with Autism to Talk, Part 3: Inferencing Through Language Activities

Author: Lisa “Luna” DeCurtis, M.A., CCC-SLP


This is the third part of the series focusing on inferencing, especially for children with Autism. To review, in Part 1, I spoke about tuning into all of the sounds in the environment and inferring where they’re from and what they mean. In Part 2, I spoke about inferring facial expressions and body language before pairing it with any meaningful language so that the child can interpret the emotion before he or she has to process the language. In part 3, we will be building inferencing by integrating expressive language for the child to infer what a speaker means by moving from concrete to more abstract language and by using indirect language, such as indirect commands for the child to tune into, understand, and act upon. How to pay for speech therapy? Get health insurance for children now.

Read more about typical language development for ages 0 to 18 months,  and typical language development for ages 18 months to 3 years.

Receptively, you can build inferencing by using indirect language and commands such as:

  • Saying “You don’t look ready to go outside. I see something missing on your feet (instead of saying “go put your shoes on”)
  • Saying “Hey, the door is locked so we can’t get in (instead of saying “I don’t have a key to open the door” )
  • Saying “I’m really thirsty. I wish I had something to drink. That would make me feel better” (instead of “Will you bring me water please?”)

This allows the child to stop and process what is happening and then consider what he or she can do to change the situation (i.e., put on shoes; find or ask for a key; go get a drink of water).

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Expressively, you can use more formal activities for building language for inferencing such as:

  • What’s wrong here? cards or coloring books that include individual pictures with something that looks different (such as a porcupine on a someone’s head instead of a hat) or a book that includes a whole page of things that are silly (such as a beach scene where there is a car in the water, or someone is wearing winter clothing, or there is a lamp plugged in). You can ask the child what that feels like, or is that possible, or have you ever seen that or tried that, or most importantly, what would happen if you did.
  • An activity book called “Introducing Inferencing” that has numerous activities such as sequencing activities where a child is shown 2 out of 3 sequenced photos and they child has to fill in middle picture of what he or she thinks happened next that would create the outcome shown in the book. For example, first a girl is carrying eggs but the last picture shows the eggs are broken so the child can guess what may have happened.
  • An app that I’ve co-created in my business Morning2Moon Productions that was made for the Apple’s iPad called “That’s Silly” which allows the child to enjoy silly pictures, fix them, and even create new ones. By looking at and manipulating these absurdities, it helps to build inferencing skills, and expressive language skills, while also encouraging shared enjoyment with a peer or an adult

Remember, with inferencing skills, it’s not about having a correct answer or coming up with an answer that the adult expects, but rather it’s about the process that one goes through and the conversation that can build from the multiple interpretations and discussing the different possibilities.

NOTE: See www.morning2moon.com for more information about the “That’s Silly” app and other services we provide.

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