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Sign Language and How It Helps People with Autism:

By: Jennavieve Meredith

February 11th 2024 


I want to express how sign language has proven to be extremely useful when it comes to individuals with autism, such as myself. Sign language is a visually based language making it easier to learn and use for people with autism, providing a better way to communicate. Even though sign language is widely used by Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing people, sign language is an important language for anyone who has trouble speaking and hearing. Autism is a spectrum of people where certain individuals have better fine motor skills than they do oral motor skills. That means hand movements may feel much less meticulous compared to movements of the mouth, which are necessary in order to speak in the verbal sense. Having a more difficult time with verbal speaking can create challenges in maintaining friendships, participating in group activities, or even when it comes to succeeding in school. These language barriers can also often lead to an inability to express thoughts and feelings, leading to frustration and outbursts.


Autism affects both expressive and receptive language skills, meaning it's challenging to understand language and express them using words, this can also be paired with other delays, such as difficulty understanding nonverbal cues and learning social skills. That is why some may find it easier to visually imagine how to say something rather than to say it out loud. Autistic people tend to be more visually oriented than language oriented. Another way to consider this thought process is like thinking in pictures rather than piecing words together. At the end of the day, "our ability to interact with other human beings depends on the language". (Zauderer, Steven, 2023) That's why sign language gives us a way to interface with the rest of the world and express ourselves forward, helping overcome any challenges without the need to say something verbally. This gives people with autism an extra means to help fit in with society's norms, though people without a disability will often think that this is too much, that autistic individuals don't feel anything, or that they are being too dramatic. "Autistic people, much like ex-demons, are often assumed to have no feelings at all, but the reality is the opposite: We often feel things very deeply, on a cellular level that impacts every aspect of our functioning". (Thinking autism, 2024) Sign language is a visual language, meaning it uses hand gestures, facial expressions, and body language to convey meaning. This is yet another benefit to the usage of sign language, which gives people the feeling that we can express emotion much more clearly when using sign language rather than speech as a communication method.


Another thing is, sign language provides a visual input rather than an auditory input, which for many of us may be an easier way to process language.


In conclusion, sign language is a useful resource for people with autism for many reasons. It is vital to keep in mind that autism is a spectrum. Everyone is different. Some individuals may be fully non-verbal, others may only be partly non-verbal, and others may be able to fully speak without problems. In my experience with learning sign language it has been much easier to remember signs and body language to express something in a situation instead of using my voice. ASL has helped me with having a second way of communication, even a simple hand gesture, when I cannot verbally connect with someone, can be very helpful. The ability to express through the body instead of using words but can express it through body language, expressions, and hand gestures. Using ASL is less stressful than trying to come up with words and speaking out loud, this makes me feel more comfortable expressing what I want to say. ASL has also made me feel more confident and prouder when communicating, as well as helped me with body language and facial expressions, which were things I struggled with growing up. Sign language gave me a way to help show emotions and convey what I wanted to say properly. It is a useful tool for me to have and every day I love learning more. I hope this essay helps show how sign language can help more people in the world, like how it helped me in my life.






Rosa, Shannon (2024) ASL FOR AUTISTICS




Thinking autism (twitter page) 2024, Jan 10 (2)


Zauderer, Steven (2023) CROSS RIVER THERAPY (1)





If you enjoyed this research paper, you may also like: The Use of Sign Language to Help Autistic Children Communicate





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