Reducing Frustration

It is important to reduce frustration as much as possible.  When children have problems communicating they often become frustrated. Frustration can lead to behavior problems and limits social and language development.  

  • Don’t pretend.  Do not pretend to understand when you don’t.  Nodding, smiling and saying “yes” just makes the problem worse in the end.  Let him know that you are sorry but you don’t know what he is trying to say.

  • Show me.  Try having your child “show you” what he is trying to say by physically taking you to the item or place.  To help him get the idea, practice having him “show you” even when you do understand what he wants.  

  • Say part back.  If you understand part of what he is trying to tell you then say that part back to him.  This will let him know that at least part of his message was understood.

  • Signs and Gestures.  Try working on a few signs at a time, keeping a list in a handy place like the refrigerator.  Get the whole family to use them.  Teach him how to use the signs by helping him to move his hands. Start with signs that are very motivating – ones that will get him what he wants.  Good ones include: more, drink, eat, help, stop, open, etc. Once he is doing the sign on his own or once he has a clear word for it then cross it off the list and add another.   Good sources for signs include:, and   You can always make up your own signs as only you and your family are going to use them.  

  • Pictures. Teach your child to “trade” a picture or symbol for what he wants. One good way to start is with labels from his favorite foods, a piece of cardboard and sticky putty. For example if he wants a juice box, he would go to the cardboard, pull off the label and give it to you. You would say “Juice – you want juice”.  Start with only one picture and show him how to trade by tempting him with the item and physically helping him to take the picture off and give it to you. After he has the idea, add more pictures.  When he uses a clear word consistently, get rid of the picture.  Try using different boards for different topics: food, bath, people, places, toys, etc.  Sources for pictures are: labels, catalogues, photos, line drawings and the internet.  Here is more information on using pictures to communicate.  

  • Signs and pictures neverdelay talking they always help.  Children naturally stop using them as soon as they have a clear word.  Signs and pictures reduce frustration and give you the chance to model the word you know he is trying to say.  When children are frustrated signs and pictures can be a life saver.  

I hope these ideas help.

Let me know if you have any questions. You can reach through at

Madison Garvi