Teaching a Child with Autism to Respond to Questions

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**For use with a child who is verbal but doesn’t respond to questions

  1. Start with simple yes/no questions about his favorite topic.  Use “is this ___” for favorite characters, objects, etc.  For example, show him a picture of a car and say “is this a car?” or “is this a snowman?”.  If the child responds verbally, repeat his answer and then praise him for his verbal response (“I like how you said ‘yes'”).  If the child does not respond verbally, prompt him with “use your words” or “you can say ‘yes'”.  If the child doesn’t respond after that, offer some sort of tangible reinforcement for his verbal response (“if you want the cookie, you need to answer my question.  Say ‘yes'”).  Fade back the use of tangible reinforcements as soon as possible.
  2. Once the child can answer basic yes/no questions verbally, move to basic “what” questions like “what’s this” and “what is he doing?”.  Again, used highly motivating pictures or objects at first to peak his interest.  Use the same method of prompting for verbal responses as above.
  3. Keep moving through new question forms in this way.  Practice each new question form in therapy during structured activities and then encourage the parents to require a verbal response to those types of questions at home as well.  Make sure that everyone has consistent expectations for the child to speak in response to those questions that you have worked on in therapy.  I would suggest working on questions in this order: yes/no, what, who, where, why, when, how.