Communicating with a child who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD) takes time and patience. Often parents of a newly diagnosed child, as well as relatives and family friends, don't know how to encourage or initiate communication.
1) The most important thing to remember is that, no matter how distant or remote or disinterested the child may appear, he is thinking and feeling, and wants to convey those thoughts and feelings!
2) Eliminate surrounding noises. Unlike many other conversations, talking with an ASD child can be extremely difficult if there is tv, computer, music, or radio on, or even other talking in the background. The child needs to focus, and you need to focus on him, and that's best done when he has your total attention and you have his.
3) Make eye contact. While many children with ASD avoid eye contact, it doesn't mean you have to. Your making eye contact shows your interest, and encourages him to look back at you.
4) Notice the child's gestures or pointing. Ask, "Oh, are you asking for juice?" or "Are you saying you want to go to the park?" The child may initiate a statement or question by pointing. Of course we want to notice facial expressions as well which often indicate a feeling the child can't fully put into words.
5) Try to re-phrase whatever words you hear. If you get a simple noun, for example, book, ask, "Do you want me to read to you?" If he's grabbing at his collar, you might ask, "Is your collar bothering you?" Re-phrasing helps you clarify what the child is saying while expressing interest in understanding him, thereby encouraging more communication from him.
6) Consider a communication device. With technological advances, newer and more productive and easier to use devices are now available to the autistic community and other special needs persons. Try http://www.autism-products.com or http://www.dynavoxtech.com.
7) Keep in mind that many children on the autism spectrum who are challenged by communication improve their communication as they get older.