Teaching Children with Autism to Ask Questions

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1. Encourage “what’s that” questions (typically emerges around 1-2 years)

  • Have child ask “what’s that” when reading books
  • When child is looking at something, tell her “you can say ‘what’s that'”.  Have the child repeat the question and then label it for her.
  • Show the child pictures of things that she definitely doesn’t know what they’re called and tell her to say “what’s that”, then label it for her.  Use a written card that says the words as a prompt for her.  You can also prompt with “do you know what that is?  Then, you can say ‘what’s that'”.

2. Start labeling other question forms for the child

  • If child looks confused or curious about something, speak the question that would fit that situation.  For example, if she’s eating a cookie, take the cookie away when she’s not looking and when she looks back and can’t find it, say “where’s my cookie?”.  Have her repeat the question and then answer her.  Do this for any situation in which she may need to ask a question.  Start with easier questions like who, what, and where first.
  • If the child is not interested in asking questions or isn’t engaging enough, try working on engagement first and then come back to this

3. Work on correct grammar for asking questions

  • If the child is trying to ask questions but doesn’t use correct grammar, practice correct grammar for a single question form (like “do you have…”).  For example, play “Go Fish” for “do you…” questions, play “Headbanz” for “Am I…” questions, or play “Guess Who” for “are you…” questions.
  • Correct grammar as errors come up in conversation