Barriers to communication with autistic children

Child image by Serenitie from

Autism is a disorder in which a person has trouble interacting and communicating, and is withdrawn from his environment. While the severity of the condition varies considerably from person to person, communication barriers are a commonality for all sufferers.

Autism is four times more common in boys and is not thoroughly understood. Autism creates many barriers to communication and caregivers must devise strategies for helping autistic children cope with their illness to develop social skills that will help them later in life.

Repetitive Behaviors

Autistic children commonly find comfort in repetitive behaviours like hand waving, verbal ticks and head rocking. Sometimes these repetitive behaviours are physically damaging, like when they include head banging or slapping. These behaviours often occur in times of stress and occupy the child's attention, making it difficult to communicate with him.

Aversion to Social Interaction

One of the hallmarks of autism is a dislike of social interaction. Many autistic children will act out when they are presented with another child or asked to interact with a caregiver. They prefer to be in a quiet, familiar space, free from new people or experiences. This creates a barrier to socialisation that interferes with the development of communication skills.

Language Delays

Autism often goes hand in hand with a delay in the development of language skills. Autistic children who can't express themselves in words often get frustrated and act out. The combination of a limited vocabulary with an inability to interact creates a significant communication barrier.


When an autistic child feels overwhelmed or frightened, she may be prone to verbal and physical outbursts or tantrums. In order to communicate with the child, a caregiver must first calm the child down and return her mood to baseline, which can be difficult or impossible in some cases. Often autistic children need a significant amount of time or sleep before they can begin interacting with people.