Why Sign Language Is Sometimes Part of ABA Therapy

Sign Language And ABA Therapy

Helping your child find a unique voice is an important part of parenthood. If your child is on the autism spectrum, you might have more concern about this critical stage than other parents. Applied behavior analysis could help by developing verbal communication skills through a variety of different techniques and approaches.

Sign language is often an element of ABA treatment plans for children who are nonverbal or at risk of becoming nonverbal. Please note that behavior analysts might recommend these exercises independent of a child’s hearing abilities.

Linking Action to Meaning

Much like spoken language, sign language uses human behaviors to convey meaning. In speech, those behaviors are mostly internal, making it more difficult to imitate them. The movements of the throat necessary to form a “K” sound are hidden, for example. On the other hand, sign language is external. The words are formed and communicated with hands and facial expressions.

Signs work because they establish a visible link between behavior and communication, a connection foundational to the understanding of language. Additionally, learning signs may help further a variety of other learning goals for children with autism:

  • Developing both fine and gross motor function
  • Improving perception and expression of feelings
  • Encouraging conversation and social interaction

Reducing the Risk of Becoming Non-Verbal

Various studies have indicated that children with the risk of becoming nonverbal experience improved outcomes from learning signs. You may also see various other features in the treatment programs for children with this particular symptom:

  • Mimicry and mirroring
  • Visual language aids
  • Single-word communication
  • Open-ended play and structured games
  • Engaging, nonverbal communication (other than signing)

Besides these functional exercises, there are also organizational elements of treatment that could be appropriate specifically for children who are the risk of becoming nonverbal. For example, taking lessons into the home — rather than performing every session in the treatment center, that is — has been associated with improved results in certain cases.

Developing an Effective Treatment Program

Although it is essential for everyday survival, speech is a relatively late skill in terms of a normal development timeline. Your child may already be on schedule and, if not, there could be a program that helps accelerate progress.

Every child has a unique way of growing, learning, and developing. The practice of ABA is based on this fact. Let us help you create a program that gives your child the best chance of establishing verbal communication skills, with or without the incorporation of sign language. Feel free to call us today at 1-866-342-8847 to begin the process.