Dr. Rachelle Sheely is the co-founder of the autism treatment Relationship Development Intervention (RDI®). In this video, Dr. Sheely discusses the importance of non-verbal cues in communicating intent.

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Full Transcript

When we communicate, and it’s one reason why something like a podcast or talking on the phone or email can be really hard. I mean, how many times I had somebody attack me over an email because they didn’t get it, they couldn’t see my facial expression, they couldn’t hear the tone.

Fortunately, we worked it out, but if you think about communication, it’s upwards of 80% being all of those subtle non-verbal cues. What our children get very good at is, they get very good at the language, and so they can answer questions, they can ask questions, but what they miss is, they miss the intent behind what’s being said. When we miss the intent, we miss the communication. Now, it would be very extreme, to be honest with you, to set up communication that would be completely non-verbal. A time that I might do that would be with a child with a former diagnosis of Asperger’s where that child would be just talking, talking, talking and we just really need to reduce that language so we can go back and work on the communication, because if communication isn’t broadband, then we’re not really communicating. We’re giving information.

An example I like to give of that is the example of, I hope this comes through, if you and I were sitting together and I said, “I love your shirt,” or if I said, “Nice shirt.” I mean, if I said it the second way, you would turn to a friend that you were with and say, “I hate her.” You can see that if you miss that, if you miss that, you’re going to miss the complete intent of what I was saying, and you’ve got about 15 to 20% of what communication is all about, so we do go back and we do build in the non-verbal cues, because we know that with typical development and RDI is based on what we’ve learned from the research and typical development.

But if we go back, we know we have to build in this non-verbal communication and language and gesture, and the language is tone of the voice and that kind of thing. Otherwise, our kids are, I mean, they’re just going to get stuck in every part of their lives. I believe it’s why so many, so many brilliant people who have autism struggle when it comes to the workplace.

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