Nonverbal Children: 3 Communication Tips for Parents

Nonverbal autism, also known as nonspeaking autism, is not a formal diagnosis. These terms are simply used to describe nonverbal children’s symptoms within ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder.) Nonverbal is the preferred term because these children are not necessarily unable to use words. They might not speak, or they might only use a handful of words.

An estimated 25%-40% of ASD individuals are minimally speaking or nonverbal. However, it is worth noting that nonverbal people are still communicating. And we have more insight than ever into how parents, friends, and family members can support nonverbal children in meaningful ways.

Definitions of nonverbal autism vary, but symptoms can include:

  • Using only a handful of words; not using complete sentences
  • Being unable to speak clearly
  • Does not initiate or appear to respond to conversation
  • Replacing words with sounds - the meaning may or may not be understood by parents
  • Spoken language is not the primary form of communication

It can be challenging to communicate with your nonverbal child, but it is essential to remember that they can be highly attuned to your moods and attitudes. As always, a little patience and creativity can go a long way toward showing support and promoting progress.

3 Communication Tips for Parents

Keep Talking

There is still a lot to be learned about autism in general and nonverbal children in particular. Just because a child is not using words to express themselves doesn’t mean they can’t understand language, don’t communicate, or aren’t engaged.

The following communication tips can help you give your child the support they need at home. These practical methods can make things a little simpler and smoother for both you and your nonverbal child while also helping you connect in new ways.

Pay Attention

It can be easy to forget that people have many different ways of communicating. Verbal communication is all around us, but so are signs of nonverbal communication. Your child might be “speaking” to you through facial expressions, sounds, or gestures.

You may pick on things you never noticed before when you pay close attention to nonverbal communication. Try to take note of your child’s preferred methods of expressing themselves. Perhaps they have obvious facial signals, or they animatedly use their hands. No one knows better than you the unique ways your child makes their needs known.

Don’t Underestimate Play

It’s crucial never to underestimate the power of play. After all, nonverbal communication can get really creative! Some kids with nonverbal autism enjoy expressing emotions through dance, hand movements, painting, and interactive play. A huge part of supporting your nonverbal child is finding what methods suit them and exploring them together.

Working games and toys into the mix can also be beneficial. Specifically, look for items that create a cause and effect or encourage imitation. We have tons of toys, games, puzzles, and products specially designed for kids with ASD, ADHD, and other sensory issues at Sensory Scout.


Nonverbal Children: Conclusion

So much great work is being done by experts and professionals worldwide to raise awareness and increase support for autistic individuals. Every day, progress is being made to benefit your nonverbal child and help give them a brighter future. And parents like you are an essential part of the global sensory community!

Whether your child develops verbal communication skills or not, it’s important to remember that they can still enjoy an excellent quality of life. Although nonverbal autism can make communicating a challenge, this symptom does not prevent your child from expressing their personality, desires, and needs.

Join our Facebook Group today to connect with other sensory parents all across the globe for more tips, guidance, support, and encouragement. We have free teletherapy sessions, innovative sensory solutions, and a safe space to share stories with parents worldwide.


Hello. My sons speech started regressing around 28 months. His 3 word sentences and naming objects turned into babbling and nonsense. And eventually he was not talking at all. He was diagnosed non verbal autistic with ADHD. I was stunned and scared not knowing what was happening to his speech development. He had speech therapy through zoom class for over a year in Pre-K with no improvement. And after being on the wait list for speech therapy through the county we finally got called in. Only to be told after the 3rd session my son was to hyper because of his ADHD and to have an ABA specialist come with me to hold him down and force him to concentrate. Never going to happen. I could not even believe she even suggested a stranger hold my son down and force him to pay attention to her. We didn't go back. I've signed him up at another speech therapy office and just got called today for my son to be evaluated again. In the mean time, NeuroBrocc has brought back the babbling, with some of the clear words he used to say before mixed in. This is the 3rd week my son has been on it and I'm seeing the change. He's also back in person in school so I'm hoping the speech therapy in his class along with still taking NeuroBrocc, we will continue to see improvement in his speech.

Thank you.

- Monique M.

My daughter asked for this item. She struggles to communicate her feelings. This has become an easy way to "read" her feelings. If she flips it to unhappy, it becomes a signal for a conversation. She is very bashful and private, so this has become a useful toy in our household. According to her (a 6th grader), its also super cool. Definitely recommend this to anyone with a moody middle schooler!

- Jackie F.