There is a lot more to communication then just the words that are said. A helpful technique to teach high functioning ASD children and teens is that the 3 parts of their message all need to match. The 3 parts are:
- The WORDS that are said
- The TONE OF VOICE that is used
- The BODY LANGUAGE (eye contact or not, facial expression, body turned towards the listener or not, other body movements, etc.)
Most kids on the spectrum have better awareness of the WORDS they say then their tone of voice or their body language. However, by increasing their awareness of the other ways they are sending a message, they can learn to work to bring all their forms of communication into alignment. When talking about it using this formulation, a parent can give the feedback: “I hear the message from the words you saying are that you are sorry. I hear a different message from your tone of voice and body language. It sounds to me like the message from your tone of voice and body language is that you are mad at me for asking you to apologize.” This could lead to a discussion of how perhaps the child feels both things, and how they could put the whole message into words. Or if the child truly intends to communicate the apology, the child could work on how to say the message with all 3 parts of communication matching. Although you need to be careful in your use of this not to shame or embarrass your child, you may be able to use video self modeling for the child to practice giving message so that all 3 parts of the message match (see my YouTube video on video self modeling) . Demonstrating yourself by saying the same words with different tones of voice and different expressions can help children learn to understand, while they are looking for the different messages. You can ask them what message they are getting from the words, what message they are getting from the tone of voice, and what message they are getting from the body language. This method of teaching, can also help children and teens come to understand different forms of humor, when the speaker intentionally gives a different message with the words, tone of voice and body language so as to make a joke.
Give this a try and let me know if it works for you. Check out my YouTube video on this topic.
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