Ways to Communicate With a Non-Verbal Child

Whether a child is silent for developmental reasons or because of hearing disabilities, communication can be just as frustrating to the child as it is for the parents. The inability to verbalize when something is wrong or when something excites them must be very irritating, which can cause some children to exhibit aggressive behaviors that they normally would not. Luckily, there are a few ways to help them communicate with Mom and Dad to ease some of the tension that can often strum through the house.
Put Up Pictures

Though it likely sounds as though it wouldn’t help, those children who are non-verbal often cannot express even basic needs, such as a need for a drink or food. To counter the frustration that can often occur during these guessing games, search for pictures of something that will represent food for them or put their favorite containers in a neutral place for taking pictures. For example, a toddler may associate a sippy cup with a drink or a snack container for food.

Once a picture for their need has been found, print it off and laminate it, then place it where they should go if they wish for one or the other. Put the cup picture on the fridge, place a snack container picture on the pantry, and place the picture of the potty by the door. Then, show these pictures to the child and teach them how to point or touch the photo so that the parent will know what they want.

Teach Them to Lead

Sometimes, the best thing to do is to teach children how to lead a parent to what they want. This works best with the picture idea above, but when the need for attention seems to begin, let Mom or Dad reach out a hand and ask, “What do you want?” “Where do you want me to go? “How can I help?” Even if the child is non-verbal, they will hopefully get the gist and lead the parent toward the thing they want to avoid frustration on either side.

Learn Sign Language

Learning a new language can take a lot of time and energy, something many parents wish they had more of, but sign language allows parents to back up what they want to convey to their child. For example, the sign for “help” can indicate to a child that a parent is not taking their favorite toy to be mean, but to fix the broken arm that the child accidentally pulled out while playing. Not only does the child feel understood, but they also understand the communication coming from their parents as well.

While it can be fun to learn phrases and complicated signs, for children, simple signs often work best. Good ones to learn are: help, more, eat, drink, hurt, and home, but more can be added when the need arises.

When a child is at the infancy stage, it can be understandable when parents cannot understand what they need or want, but it can be very frustrating for children who are toddlers or younger ages. Putting up pictures, allowing them to lead their parents to show what they want, and learning a few signs from sign language can open the communication barriers and end the guessing games for all involved. The way to communication and it can be a grueling process, but if it helps a child to feel understood and appreciated, then it will be well worth it!

Amanda F

I'm a stay at home mother of two children who graduated from Mercy College with a bachelor's degree with honors in English in 2015. I operate primarily out of upstate New York. I currently have one book e-published online and am hoping to become a romance novelist someday.

Amanda F


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