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The Power of Words

A common belief is that individuals with Autism and other special needs are portrayed to be unable to understand the things that people say, this common thought process occurs due to the limited verbal speech of many of the individuals. The truth is so many of them understand everything that is said around them, this is why so many of our client’s learning language whether it be verbal or nonverbal our ABA therapists are encouraged to model language while playing because they are able to learn so much through pairing the language with the action.

“Our clients learn through a variety of ways”.

So today we are talking about different ways language can be used to provide opportunities for individuals with special needs to pick up new skills.


You are probably thinking of someone reading a story out loud, which would not be far from what occurs. Only in the case of teaching language this would be saying what actions the individual is doing as they play, draw, and move about throughout the day.

For example, if an individual was drawing an animal and the therapist says “Oh look you drew a spider! Wow that’s amazing spiders have eight legs, let’s count them!”.

When this happens the common phrases, names of items, and actions are paired with things that are naturally going on in their environment which assists in teaching them a variety of skills.


Another way that individuals learn and understand language is through people saying the word associated specifically with the action being taught. This is similar to narration with the exception that you are the one performing the action being explained.

For example, the therapist starts clapping and then says “I’m clapping “outside of a target. Then the therapist when teaching an individual to identify actions sees a picture of the word clapping or of people clapping is then asked to identify the action or to show which one is clapping? The individual then selects the correct choice. This method focuses on how to teach a specific skill when it is used but is equally effective.

Katherine Rose is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst at Appleseeds Behavioral Center in Kennesaw, Georgia.


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