Having a child that is non-verbal can be challenging, which is why we are big advocates of Play! My experiences working with children over the years have always solidified the simple fact that "Play" is truly a universal language.
We've found 3 great ways you can connect with your child today. Try them at home, at the park or in the car! You don't need any fancy toys or learn complicated techniques!
1. Through labeling
I make it a point to think about what I say to children. I often try to incorporate statements that are true and make a child feel like they can do anything! These simple statements have a really great effect on children!
For example, if you're at home and your child is putting together a toy. You can say things like "You put that together all by yourself" or "You've matched all the colour blocks, looks like you really know your colours!"
Statements like these are a great way to show you "see" your child's inner world. Their own thoughts and ideas are acknowledged and this increases their self-esteem. You can do this outside the playroom. Say you're going for a walk, or you are at the playground you can say things like "You climbed the ladder all by yourself" or "You know the way home!".
2. Through sharing
Play is useful for a lot of things. One of them is sharing. This is an important life skill your child will need to develop into adulthood. It develops other skills like joint attention, cooperation, and sharing an interest.
We find that parents often underestimate "play" in this sense. Children are actually learning a lot. You can do this simple exercise anywhere. When your child has a toy that they are engaged in, join them in their activity, and occasionally take the toy from them. They will want the toy back from you, so help them learn ways to "ask" for the toy back. For example, through sign language, gesturing, verbalising, or repeating after you. Be gentle, but firm in doing so.
2. Through experiences
It is important to expose your child to as much language as possible. A great way to do this is by "experience" books before bedtime. Reading to your child, while touching textured pictures exposes your child to a large vocabulary.
Another great thing to do is recall unique experiences. For example, going to the zoo. When you're at the zoo, you would take lots of pictures, get out your iPad or print out the images so that you can recall the events with your child. Pictures of the animals, what you might have eaten. A picture book can help your child identify objects and emotions they don't get to experience on a daily basis. You can ask your child to "point to the elephant" or say things like "you look very happy in this picture", and "you are smiling, can you show me a big smile?"
These are some small, simple, and effective ways you can encourage language and connect with your child at the same time. If you find you are at a loss as to where to begin, start with your child's interest. Sometimes things don't go as you've planned them, and that is okay. Try again the next day. Building a connection with your child is something you will continue to do over the years.