Understanding Nonverbal Autism: Everything You Need To Know

As a parent, you may worry about how to best help your child cope with or manage a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. With autistic children presenting differently in many ways, it can be difficult to determine what the most appropriate course of action should be, especially when it comes to communication and involvement with social activities. 

Nonverbal autism is one particular subset of this highly variable condition that requires special attention. Understanding what nonspeaking autism looks like and how parents can assist their children in lessening its potential impact is essential for successful management of this condition. In this article, we're going to provide an overview of nonverbal autism so that you will know what signs and symptoms you need to watch out for, as well as which interventions are most useful.

What is non verbal autism?

Non-verbal autism is a subset of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in which a person has difficulty, or is entirely unable, to communicate with spoken language. However, this does not necessarily mean that communication isn’t occurring—some people with non-verbal autism use sign language, visual tools or even their own creative forms of communication. Other non-verbal children may use their behaviors and reactions to interact with those around them; for instance, some may respond positively to objects or activities they enjoy, while others might become distressed in situations that cause anxiety.

While not every individual diagnosed with ASD fits this category, it is estimated that around 40 percent are non-verbal. This form of autism usually coincides with intellectual disabilities and can significantly impact an individual's ability to interact with others.

what causes nonverbal autism

What causes nonverbal autism?

Nonverbal autism is a form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in which affected individuals do not develop functional expressive communication skills. The exact cause of nonverbal autism is unknown, however several potential risk factors have been identified. 

These include genetic mutations, environmental triggers such as pollutants, and possibly hormonal changes in the womb. Additionally, research has revealed certain differences in brain structure that may be behind many cases of nonverbal autism. For example, some individuals with this form of ASD have larger gray matter volume in certain regions of the brain compared to unaffected individuals. 

Others suggest that nonverbal autism is the consequence of difficulty processing spoken language, anxiety, or just the lack of interest in using verbal language to express something. All in all, it’s important to remember that the fact that people with nonspeaking autism don’t, as its name suggest, speak, doesn’t mean they can’t communicate and live a successful life. 

What are the symptoms of autism nonverbal communication?

Usually, kids start talking or expressing themselves through certain words when they turn 12 months to 18 months. However, kiddos with nonverbal autism don’t develop this ability, meaning that they don’t achieve this milestone. So, basically, the main symptom of nonverbal communication is not speaking at all. 

However, there are other symptoms that parents may notice. This may include an inability to make eye contact, avoidance of physical touch, repetitive body movements such as rocking and hand flapping, and difficulties understanding facial expressions and tone of voice. This is because most people with nonverbal autism have a level 3 of autism or more severe. 

what is non verbal autism

How is nonspeaking autism diagnosed?

Diagnosing non speaking autism can be difficult, as there is no definitive test for the disorder. Generally, clinicians will evaluate an individual's communication ability and behavior before making a diagnosis. This usually takes the form of observation and conversation with parents or caregivers to determine how a person interacts socially. In addition, healthcare professionals may employ diagnostic tests such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) to evaluate communication abilities and behavior further. 

Moreover, medical exams, such as measuring genetic sequencing results, assessing an individual's hearing ability, checking parents’ medical history, or even conducting a CT scan or MRI, may also be conducted in order to come to the most accurate diagnosis possible. While diagnosing non speaking autism can be complex and challenging, it is important for clinicians to press forward in order that individuals receive proper care and treatment.

How is non speaking autism treated?

Non Speaking autism can be treated with a variety of therapies that promote communication and better understanding of oneself, others, and the environment. Different strategies can be used, including social skills' therapy, speech-language therapy, behavioral therapy, occupational therapy, and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Each of these treatments has its own approach to helping individuals with autism align their behavior with their internal experience, while also promoting a healthy external environment. 

Social skills training involves teaching communication techniques, nonverbal behavior patterns like facial expressions or hand gestures, as well as interpersonal abilities. Speech-language therapy helps to increase language comprehension and production for those who have difficulties communicating with verbal language. Additionally, behavioral therapists help patients learn coping mechanisms for difficult behaviors such as self-harm or aggression. 

Occupational therapy also provides practical solutions for everyday tasks and activities of daily living whereas ABA is an evidence-based practice which focuses on reinforcing positive behavior while reducing any dangerous or undesired behavior. Collectively, these treatments allow non speaking people with autism to receive support in managing symptoms and improving quality of life.

autism communication

Non-verbal autism: Final Thoughts

Non-verbal autism can be a difficult journey for those affected and their families. Communication is often the greatest challenge, as individuals with nonverbal autism are unable to communicate using verbal language. However, despite the challenges, there is still much that those with this form of autism can achieve. 

With advancements in treatments and communication methods, many people with non-verbal autism have made progress in the areas of social skills, communication tools, sensory regulation, education and independent living. 

Although a difficult journey, with the right resources many families can make great strides towards making sure their loved one's voice is heard – loud and clear!

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