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Top Home-Based Tools For Communicating with a Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Caring for a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) does not come naturally for anyone. Knowing how to interact with your child can take time, and will change as your child grows.

Autism Communication Tools and Strategies

Communication difficulties can occur in both verbal and non-verbal children with ASD. In both cases, communication strategies and technological tools are available to help children communicate in their individual capacities and minimize frustration for the child, caregivers, and family.

One of the main goals of speech therapy for autism and educational treatment plans is improving functional communication so that they can participate in Daily Living Skills (DLS) with the least amount of turbulence. Some examples of DLS are: 

  • Using the toilet
  • Bathing
  • Brushing teeth
  • Getting dressed
  • Preparing a snack or a meal
  • Social interactions
  • Money management

These skills are important to living independently, and without effective skills and communication tools for autism, they can be difficult to achieve. For example, if a child is having difficulty expressing that they’re hungry, it becomes the responsibility of the caregiver to anticipate and meet that basic need for the child (Learn more about speech disorders here). Conversely, if a caregiver can’t easily explain to a child the next step in completing a task, the child may not be able to react appropriately.

Here I’ve compiled a list of information, tools for kids with autism, resources, and activities for children with autism to help them and their caregivers—communicate more effectively. Using these autism teaching strategies can lead to decreased frustration and improved daily function for the entire family.

Adapt to Your Child's Learning Style

Determine if your child is a visual, auditory, or tactile learner and act accordingly. Depending on your child’s autism learning style, there may be a better way to communicate.

If your child is a visual learner (learns best by what they see):

autism visual learner

  • Favor schedules that are represented on posters, whiteboards, or chalkboards
  • Favor pictures over words
  • Favor demonstrating an activity to the child before asking them to try
  • Consider visual learning programs like 3D Learner

If your child is an auditory learner (learns best by what they hear):

  • Favor schedules that are represented by audio or video recordings
  • Use audiobooks, voice recorders, or songs and rhymes
  • Favor explaining an activity to the child before asking them to try
  • Consider auditory stimulation techniques with a tool like Forbrain. Read in detail how Forbrain can help individuals on the spectrum.

If your child is a tactile learner (learns best by what they can touch):

autism sensory learner

  • Favor schedules that are represented by objects, 3D models, or sensory-rich experiences
  • Use sensory materials such as rice, marbles, uncooked pasta, modeling clay, etc.
  • Favor performing the activity with the child and explain as you do it together
  • Find more strategies for tactile learners here

Stick to Routine and Structure

One of the first things I learned in graduate school about providing therapy services to children with ASD, is to create a consistent routine. Ideally, the child will be seen in the same room, with the same therapist, even entering and exiting through the same door each session. Routines give the child a sense of what to expect next, which calms anxiety and also helps to avoid a sense of powerlessness. These same strategies can be easily used as autism therapy at home. Try the following:

  • Keep a daily or weekly schedule for your child and review it with them regularly.
  • In this schedule, include times of activities, school, mealtimes, and even downtime or “free” time
  • Keep the schedule focused on the activities of the child, and not those activities for other family members (for example, “Go with your sister to her ballet class” is more appropriate than “Sarah’s ballet class”)
  • Make clear which activities stay the same each day/week, and those that may change (which leads me to the next suggestion):
  • Schedule unscheduled time. Yes, you read that right!                                                                                          On the schedule, leave blank or add a question mark when there is an opportunity to add an activity. This is different than “free” time, which is time for the child to do as they please. Unscheduled time is saying, “On Tuesday at 4 pm, we can stop somewhere on the way home from school for a fun activity.” Do not tell your child what that activity will be and help them be comfortable with the idea of not knowing. Plan to do something exciting for them like playing at their favorite park, or visiting someone they love. The idea is to teach them that sometimes unexpected things can be enjoyable and, to praise them when they are flexible with the schedule.

Be a good Communicator

Demonstrating good communication skills that are tailored to your child’s needs is imperative in creating a low-stress, low-anxiety, and effective communication environment. We parents hear often that good habits begin at home, and it’s true. What are some strategies that caregivers of children with ASD can use to help create this environment?

  • Be a good listener:
    • Give and encourage good eye contact during conversation.
    • Use feedback like nodding your head or saying “Uh-huh” to express that you are following the information.
    • Follow your child’s lead. If they have a particular interest in something, use that a stepping stone to expand communication. Ask them what they like about the subject, or to tell you more.
  • Be a good speaker:
    • Keep information short and concise, or break it down into manageable pieces.
    • Moderate your voice: try to avoid drastic changes in pitch, volume, and rate.
    • Avoid using abstract language, euphemisms, and sarcasm (a child with ASD may have a particularly difficult time catching those subtleties).
    • Reduce environmental distractions like electronic devices, music, or other extraneous noise while communicating with your child.

Technological Tools

Tools for communicating with children with ASD beyond the basic strategies mentioned above include the use of increasingly effective technology. These tools are referred to as Alternative and Augmented Communication (AAC). Some tools can be used independently for communication training or Activities of Daily Living and some will require aid from a caregiver or therapy professional. Each can be used in the home to help create a supportive communication environment for the entire family unit. Examples of such devices include:


Apps that help create customized Picture Exchange Communication Systems (PECS). PECS use pictures to allow children to express needs, understand others, or anticipate schedules and planning for daily activities. These applications are available for Apple and Android devices.

Text-to-speech Softwares

Text-to-speech software and audiobooks for children with ASD who have reading difficulties. This software can be used on computers or tablets to help read information to children.

Speech Recognition Softwares

If a child with ASD is verbal but is unable to write, this software recognizes speech, turning it into text for tasks such as academic assignments, emails, and printed material. The use of keyboards can also help with written tasks.


Dynavox is one of the most popular AAC devices and allows the user to communicate with pictures or words. It includes a touch screen and additionally an optional eye tracking or gaze technology. It is fully customizable with a variety of software options built-in.

Final Words

While caring for a child with ASD can be full of a myriad of challenges and surprises, good communication can be fostered through speech therapy at home and communication tools for autism. I’ve given you tools and suggestions on how to start. For more information on social skills activities for autism read our dedicated guide, and to see other suggestions for improving communication with the ASD population visit the following resources:

Autism Circuit

Autism Society



Drager, K. D. (2009). Aided modeling interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders who require AAC. Perspectives on Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 18(4), 114-120.

Halpin, M. (2023, November 7). How assistive technology works for people with autism. Recite Me. 

Hodgdon, L. A. (1995). Visual strategies for improving communication: Practical Supports for School and Home. Quirk Roberts Publishing.

Minan, M. J. (2014). An interactive system to enhance social and verbal communication skills of children with autism spectrum disorders.

Nunes, Débra R. P. (2008) AAC Interventions for Autism: A Research Summary.  International Journal of Special Education, 23(2), 17-26 (n.d.). Assistive Technology for Students with Autism

Amy BOREL, Speech-Language Pathologist
Amy BOREL, Speech-Language Pathologist
Amy Borel is an American Speech-Language Pathologist, Writer, Editor, and English Teaching Professional. She graduated with her Master's degree from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan in the United States. Now living in Northern France, she enjoys writing and editing English for French organizations and teaching English to adult students.

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