Teaching Children with Autism

Teaching Children with Autism: A Review of the Basics, continued
Now, narrative language, also called “declarative” language, may be contrasted with “imperative” language. Imperative communication uses language forms that are “instrumental” in their objectives – they demand something specific of the child – and they imply that the instructor’s point of view is the only one worth considering. Examples of imperative language are:
• directives (“Touch the car”)
• choices (“Would you like the car or the bubbles”)
• questions (“What is your name?”).
Narrative communication uses language forms that don’t make any direct demands on the listener. It tends to involve relative thinking processes which imply that, between two speakers, there can be different views of reality. Examples of declarative language include:
• invitations (“Let’s play with cars”)
• statements (“I’m tired of playing with cars!”)
• self-narratives (“I’m walking over to the table to get a car.)
The language that you use with your child should be about 75-80% narrative (i.e., declarative) to about 20-25% imperative. That is, no more than about 20-25% of your communications should be placing demands on your child. That might creep up a bit when doing instruction but, in that case, it has to be balanced with sufficient reinforcement to keep the learning enjoyable. The rest of your talking to the child should be just for sharing enjoyment and information.

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