Tips communicating wants – Autism Language impairments

Imagine knowing your wants and needs but not being able to verbalise it.

Would you be frustrated? I know I would be.

It is heartbreaking to see your child or the person you are supporting upset and crying because they want something but can’t say or do not know, how to express what they want.

A person with Autism, small child learning to talk, someone that has delayed speech, language impairment or English as a second language, may experience times of frustration and behaviours due to the inability to express what they want.

Think about all the times you say what you want, it might be buying your morning coffee or asking the children to tidy up after themselves.

I would be frustrated too, if I could not express what I wanted.

It makes me ponder, it is so easy to take this skill, the gift of speech, for granted.

Regardless of verbal communication, we can all do simple things to support someone unable to express themselves, express themselves!

And whilst doing so, you are unwillingly developing the persons communication skills.

How we can help

Use pictures

Pictures are a concrete form of communication.

Pictures allows the person to have a voice.

Keep a key ring of pictures of basic needs, wants and favourite things such as “drink” on you at all times.

Autism, speech wants and needs

This resource can be used at home, childcare or out in the Community.

Keep the keyring in your pocket or the person you are supporting can hold onto it.

If your child or the person you are supporting is upset, go through the pictures with them and support them to point to what they want.

This tool allows not only children but people of all ages, dignity and a voice to be able to express what they want.

Use Keywords to prompt wants and needs

In the beginning, only use keywords. For example instead of saying “do you want to go to the toilet” simply say “toilet”.

You can expand on the keyword once the person develops their receptive language.

Non-verbal gestures

Encourage the person to point to what they want.  Say “show me.”

Look for a change in facial expression, develop an understanding of what each facial expression or non verbal gesture means to the person you are supporting.

Most importantly, use lots of smiles and thumbs up and high fives once the person has been able to gesture or non verbally communicate what they want.

Enjoy the engagement!

autism, communication, needs, wants

Till next time,

Alison – Mother, Blogger, Founder See-n-Speak Communication Resources  –





Alison Mooney

I am a mother first, Blogger and Founder of See-n-Speak Communication Picture Exchange resources for people with a Disability. Sharing our resources and knowledge successfully using picture exchange as a form of communication with our child.

Leave a Comment