What can I do to encourage my son to say more words?




Q: Q: My son was born in March 2011. I think he may have autism because he says just five words on his own. He never repeats my words and just makes noise.  But he does imitate me using the phone and and his father using the computer.  He plays with the remote, mobile phone, and the computer, and he reacts to the sounds from the TV by dancing. He is always in a mood to watch TV and play, but he never tries to talk. Does he have autism? What are your suggestions to improve his talking, listening, and repeating abilities?

A: A: I'm glad to hear that he is imitating others' behavior and he is interested in dancing. This is a great start from which you can build. If you haven't done so already, share your observations and concerns with your pediatrician. He or she may refer you to a neurologist or developmental pediatrician for an evaluation.  You may also want to contact your county's Early Intervention program and ask for a speech evaluation. If eligible, your son could receive speech services to encourage more language production.

In terms of encouraging more language, respond to his requests only if he uses his words. If he is pointing to Legos, only reach for them if he says, "Legos" or asks, "Mama play legos?" Also, read with him and ask him questions about the characters and the story.

It sounds like your son is highly motivated by the computer and other forms of technology. Use the computer together instead of allowing him to use the computer, mobile phone, or remote in isolation.  Play games on the computer or mobile phone that require a verbal response. You can reward him with computer or mobile time when he uses his words, but limit the amount of screen time (including TV time) to no more than 1 hour per day.


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