Nonverbal Autism: What It Is & Modern Treatment Options

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Autism is a developmental disorder where people have problems with social interactions. A person with autism may not be able to read facial expressions, body language or gestures that are usually needed in everyday life. They also struggle to connect and empathize with others.

Nonverbal autism is a form of autism that is characterized by a lack of verbal communication and social interaction. Signs of nonverbal autism include problems with eye contact, facial expressions, body language, and gestures. The “nonverbal autism signs” are the main features that define this type of autism.


What are the thoughts of a loved one? What is it that that individual desires? What can we do to assist? We ask questions when we have them. We also demand responses, which may be difficult for those with nonverbal autism. 

People with nonverbal autism have ideas, wants, needs, and desires just like everyone else. However, they are unable to articulate their inner ideas via words. 

Some persons with nonverbal autism eventually gain the ability to talk. Others never obtain the ability to speak.

Therapy seeks to assist individuals in learning to speak in the way that seems most natural to them. Families may benefit from the same treatment by learning how to assist someone they care about.

Autism Statistics for Nonverbal Children

Communication is frequently a problem for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It’s not uncommon for persons on the spectrum to avoid speaking at all.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 40% of children with ASD never speak. Others may only speak a few words and have communication problems, such as:

  • Echolalia is a term used to describe a person (repeating a word or phrase).

  • Pronouns are reversed.

  • Using a flat or sing-song tone of voice.

  • An inability to form a phrase out of multiple words.

Some children with autism may not fulfill verbal developmental milestones, yet they eventually learn to talk. In a study on the subject, researchers discovered that roughly 70% of children who were not speaking by the age of four could utilize basic sentences later in life. As adults, around half were native speakers. 

Researchers are baffled as to why certain individuals suffer from nonverbal autism. They also have no idea what these folks are going through as they traverse the world.

Nonverbal persons are seldom studied, and little effort has been made to comprehend them.

Nonverbal Autism Diagnosis

Interviews are the first step in diagnosing autism spectrum disorder. Doctors converse with patients and use age-appropriate ratings to grade their replies. These exams are difficult to administer when persons are unable to respond to questions. 

Autism-specific testing intended for individuals who can’t communicate, according to experts, may be helpful. They include the following:

  • Second Edition of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule.

  • Third Edition of the Childhood Autism Rating Scale.

Physical checks, blood tests, and imaging tests are frequently used by doctors to rule out health disorders that are similar to nonverbal autism. A youngster who can’t hear or a person with a mouth tumor may seem to be uncommunicative, yet resolving these issues may enable the individual to freely communicate and hear. Doctors need to figure out what’s going on. 

Doctors may also rely on outside interviews for assistance, such as:

  • Parents. Did the youngster ever say anything? Did they begin to talk and then lose their capacity to do so? How long has the youngster been deafeningly quiet? Doctors can get a good picture of a child’s background by asking these questions.

  • Teachers. At school, does the youngster seem alert and attentive? Is it possible to get the child’s attention by calling his or her name? What are the grades of the child? These responses are about a child’s ability outside of the family.

  • Doctors. On their way to a diagnosis, some youngsters visit a number of medical specialists. Seeing such notes might assist to clarify the situation.

Brain waves in persons with nonverbal autism vary from those found in those with regular speaking patterns, according to researchers. Researchers demonstrated this in a 2017 study. 

However, physicians currently have no way of determining whether or not someone has autism using brain scans or blood testing. They don’t utilize tests like these to figure out if someone can talk but chooses not to, or if they are physically incapable of doing so.

Instead, clinicians base their diagnoses on interviews and observations. These are the greatest tools accessible right now.

What Makes Therapy Effective?

Communication skills are essential for a self-sufficient existence and genuine connections. Therapists may sometimes assist patients in finding their voice and speaking correctly. Therapy may sometimes assist nonverbal persons in finding new methods to express their ideas and emotions.

Parents can assist early, nonverbal children learn to talk, according to the National Institutes of Health. They can help with pre-language skills like:

  • Movements of the body Pointing, touching, and clapping are all acceptable modes of communication.

  • Imitation. Children learn to speak through imitating adults. Parents may urge their children to take this step. 

  • Babbling. Kids may strengthen their muscles and develop their speech by making seemingly ridiculous noises.

Older children may need specialized treatment to help them utilize language for a specific goal. For example, a therapist could utilize applied behavior analysis (ABA) to teach a kid how to ask for a sip of water or indicate that juice is preferred over water. Speech therapy is also important.

Some children never grasp the act of speaking. Alternative means, such as a symbol system or sign language, may be used. In therapy, the professional and the kid may collaborate to discover an expression technique that is appropriate for both the child and the family.

In a child’s treatment, parents play a critical role. Homework allows children to practice in between visits, and it is often assigned by parents. Make sure you understand how each session works and that you’re ready to take up the task when the therapist isn’t available. 

Living with a Nonverbal Autistic Person 

Researchers don’t know enough about nonverbal autism sufferers. They can’t argue, for example, that the feature is linked to poor IQ. They are baffled as to why some persons with autism speak eloquently while others do not.

Families, on the other hand, are aware of their desire to assist. They have a lot of options.

The National Autistic Society of Europe advises accepting a person’s chosen form of communication, which may include:

  • Crying. 

  • Pointing and reaching gestures are examples of gestures.
  • Putting your hand on a desired thing is an example of modeling.
  • Tantrums or obnoxious conduct.
  • Books and computer programs are examples of pictorial systems.

Just because someone is silent does not imply they have nothing to say. Look for other methods to connect. 

Some persons with nonverbal autism are able to comprehend words but struggle to respond verbally. Others have difficulty understanding language and need assistance from their relatives. When you have the opportunity:

Giving your kid room to hold up their end of a discussion is also recommended by Autism Speaks. This might entail:

If you’re irritated, your youngster may feel the same way. When everyone is furious and misunderstood, it’s difficult to communicate.

When you need to take a break from teachings, do so, and allow your youngster do the same. Nurture your connection and rejoice in your victories when they come. It will be appreciated by your youngster.


Nonverbal autism is a condition that affects children who cannot communicate through speech. It is often mistaken for mental retardation or intellectual disability. The good news is that modern treatment options are available to help these children learn how to communicate with their families, teachers and friends. Reference: how to communicate with a nonverbal autistic child.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is nonverbal autism?

A: Individuals who are diagnosed with nonverbal autism often struggle with learning language. They may not be able to speak and instead rely on body language, pictures, or writing to communicate their thoughts.

What causes kids to be non-verbal?

A: There are many different factors that contribute to children not being able to speak. Some of the most common reasons can be a genetic issue, cerebral palsy, autism or developmental delays in speech development.

Do nonverbal autistic toddlers ever speak?

A: Some children with Autism Spectrum Disorder do not speak until they are much older. Usually, these children have delayed language development and often struggle to communicate their needs or thoughts.

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