top of page

Can Sign Language Help Early Learners with Autism Develop Communication Skills?

By Sheila Hartley - Originally posted on Stages Learning blog

The short answer is Yes! There is strong research support for teaching sign language to all young children, with and without ASD. Sign language can be used to help encourage verbal language development, but it should not be used as a replacement for teaching children to speak. In some cases, speech language therapists and parents will use sign language as an alternative to speech for non-verbal children with autism. How Can I Get Started with Teaching my Child or Student Sign Language? It’s best to use simple nouns and actions when first introducing sign language to a young learner. Focus on things that they enjoy and frequently use, such as water, milk, ball, car, and cracker. Do not teach more abstract signs such as “more” until several signs have been established. The goal is to help them generalize their requests across people and environments and others must understand what the child is asking for, instead of guessing what they want “more” of.

This website is a fantastic resource for visually referencing a variety of signs. They have pictures and videos to demonstrate how to accurately use sign language. There are also printable resources that can be used in the home and school environments to provide a model and prompt to use signs throughout the day!

  • Children’s Books