I opted to write this blog after reading the therapy plan a fellow Autism parent has for their children and one of the goals on there was to teach her son, how to say, "Trick or Treat." So I thought I'd share a little bit about our experience with teaching speech and what stuck.
Before Elizabeth was born I knew I felt that manners were very important and I wanted to make sure that each of the children learned how to use their manners. For those unfamiliar with manners and what they are, I am discussing using "Please and Thank You." "Yes Please, or No thank you." I'm discussing learning how to speak appropriately to other people even when they annoy you and giving them courtesy and respect.
But for the time being lets stick with using the words please and thank you. So when each of the two younger girls first began to make small noises and as they began to move around the house more I used these moments as opportunities to teach them how to say those words. When one of the children would crawl around and take something they shouldn't have (because all babies do these things - it's how they learn), I would kindly ask, "May Mommy have that please?" Then while gently removing it from their hands, I would reply with "Thank you." I often said Thank you in a sing song voice and didn't even realize it until I heard them parrot it back to me the same way I would say it.
Elizabeth picked it up pretty fast and so did Beka, but we ran into a few snags as Lizzie got older. She would want something and instead of asking by using "Please" she would ask, "What do you say?" Or she would thank herself or even say "You're Welcome" to herself before I had a chance. It was cute but it also meant I needed to be a little more creative with her.
October 2004 we were facing Halloween and Elizabeth was finally old enough to go trick or treating. So started trying to teach her how to say, "Trick or Treat". We never did quite master it, however, I didn't need to worry. A friend of ours loaned us one of her children's red Teletubby costume and I got her a bucket to carry. She has always been small for her age, and this year she was almost run over by some of the other children, but Mom and I were determined to let her have a good time and so Mom followed us in the car and we would walk through the neighborhood we had chosen. Lizzie would go up to the stairs, but couldn't quite say Trick or Treat, so she would hold up her bag with her big brown eyes and her adorable costume and she would say, Pease, pweetty pease. That alone earned her more candy than all of the other children who kept racing in front of her. At one house we had to ask for a napkin though because she couldn't resist the suckers, and again she used her good manners.
The thing about teaching manners whether to a child with Autism/an Austism Spectrum Disorder is, it's all about repetition and setting a good example. If you talk to people as if they are bugs, your children will learn to speak to others in the same way. If you speak to people with kindness and are thoughtful and considerate, your children will learn to speak that way to people. A lot of it is a question of "What type of parent do you want to be to your child?"