Speaking to children with autism, ADHD and learning disabilities

by | Jun 14, 2021 | Children's Communication Skills, Neurodiversity

In this article, I’m going to consider the 3 conditions. So you can adapt your approach when speaking to children with autism, ADHD and learning disabilities. One thing that is consistent with all 3 conditions is to speak to the parents of the child so that you have an understanding of their child and their abilities and areas of development or special need.

Autism and ADHD are related in many ways. But ADHD is not a part of autism spectrum disorder. Neither are learning disabilities but they are disabilities in their own right. When communicating with children who have these conditions, it’s important that you understand their needs.

Speaking to Children with Autism

Basic conversations can often be challenging when speaking to children with autism. Because a classic symptom is a shortfall in their capabilities to communicate. But this doesn’t mean children with autism can’t communicate. Both you and they will benefit from attempting to have conversations so always be willing to give it a go.

Patience is key. It’s better to wait to see if a child with autism is engaged in an activity or in an elevated emotional state. Attempting to interrupt them is unlikely to get the response you desire.

When they do decide they’re ready to talk let them lead the conversation. You’ve made it this far so don’t ruin it by trying to force what you talk about. Keep it simple and straight to the point, looking out for non-verbal signals. Children with autism may not always be able to verbalise their message. But they will attempt to tell you in other ways. They may be repetitive at times and fixate on a particular thing. This is common in children with autism. Remember, they’re leading the conversation so go with it.

You might like this blog – Improve Public Speaking for Adults and Children with Autism

Speaking to children with autism

Speaking to Children with ADHD

Children with ADHD have very active minds. It can be difficult for them to find calm and focus amid the chaos. The main challenge is getting them to take time out and listen. It’s important to remain calm and speak quietly. Encouraging them to slow down and engage.

Ask questions rather than making statements. This will give children with ADHD food for thought and help them to stay engaged. Try to keep it stimulating, using physical cues where appropriate. Make a game out of things, breaking them down into different tasks and giving them direction. You need to be stimulating to keep their attention.

Speaking to Children with Learning Disabilities

Children with learning disabilities find it difficult to pick things up. They do not develop at the same rate as children of the same age. When it comes to speaking to a child with learning disabilities, it’s not only about the words you use. You should also consider your tonality and body language. It is also important to be a very good listener.

Children with learning disabilities prefer to communicate 1 to 1 rather than in groups. Follow their lead and go at their pace, always making sure you have understood what they are saying. Using gestures and facial expressions to emphasise feeling can help them to understand your message. You should always keep it simple and use clear language. But most of all, be patient and take your time.

Conclusion Speaking to children with autism, ADHD and learning disabilities

No matter what their diagnosis, communicating with children is essential. It can be a challenge but by adopting the right approach we can meet their needs. Whether it’s a child with autism and a shortfall in their ability to communicate. A child with ADHD who struggles to cut through the noise and focus. Or a child with learning disabilities who doesn’t develop at the same rate as others. The most important thing is patience. Giving them the time they need to communicate effectively.

If you would like further guidance then contact me at sonal@sonaldave.com

Helpful Support Organisations:


ADHD Foundation

Learning Disability England

© Sonal Dave all rights reserved 2024. No reproduction of this content in part or in full is permitted without prior permission.

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sonal dave

Public Speaking Expert & Trainer: SONAL DAVE

Communication and public speaking expert, Sonal, helps both children and adults communicate more effectively so that they have the tools and skills they need for better relationships and, indeed, for life.

Through her extensive experience working within the youth work, entertainment and business sectors, Sonal is uniquely placed to help bridge the communication gap between kids and adults.

Sonal’s exciting and engaging workshops and courses help people the world over reconnect and communicate so that they can overcome the barriers to success that have been holding them back.

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