One role that parents and other adults need to play for a child with ASD is the Translator. A translator notices when communication is breaking down and finds a way to provide information to the two people who are communicating. The translator might be translating a child to himself so that he can understand his feelings better as when you take a crying child over to a mirror and say You are sad. Look at your tears. You don't like Grandma to leave. Often, it involves rewording something that a child says so that it can be understood by someone who does not know the child as well. It might involve translating the a big confusing social situation for a child so that he or she can be more successful socially. Translating does not involve telling a child what to do--just providing enough information so that he can do what he wants to do.
Example 1--Mom says, We need to put toys away and go to bed. Alex screams and throws himself on the floor. Dad goes to stand by Alex and says, looking at mom and translating his son's behavior into words, I don't want to go to bed, mom. Mom says, looking at her son (not Dad), Sorry, look at the clock, the clock says 8:00. Alex stops screaming when dad was talking but starts again when mom finishes. Dad says, Can I play five more minutes? Mom says, OK, I will set the timer, when the bell rings, it is time for bed. Nobody says a word about Alex's screaming but Dad continues translating calmly, even if it gets to the point where mom says Alex you can walk to your bed by yourself or mom will help you. The translator talks for Alex the whole time and mom does the parenting.
Example 2--Two children are playing with cars together and Eddie wants to set up a parking lot where there are lots of cars and Andy keeps taking cars. A fight is on the horizon. Mom says, Come here boys, I will show you what is happening. Mom picks up a paper and draws simple line drawings as she talks. Eddie wants a parking lot. Andy wants the cars for driving around. We have got a little problem here. What is your idea Eddie? She writes down whatever Eddie says or translates what he says into what he means. What is your idea Andy? She writes down whatever Andy says or what he means. She does not solve the problem for them but steps them through negotiating if possible, writing down each boys ideas as they go. She might suggest two different ways they could choose to solve their problem and let them choose. The translator explains to the boys what the other one wants in words and simple line drawings giving each boy a voice that can be heard and understood by the other.
Example 3: Grandma sees that her grandson, Eliot, always talks about planets to grandpa and grandpa just nods and grunts and half-heartedly participates on the conversation. Grandma takes Eliot aside and says Eliot, we should make a chart to see what everyone in our family likes to talk about. I will show you how to make a chart on the computer. After Eliot and grandma get a chart made, Grandma says to Eliot, This chart is cool because you can use this information about your family, just like NASA uses information about the planets and stars. It says on your chart that grandpa likes to talk about Star Wars, Fishing, and Alaska. A good conversation is one where Grandpa and you talk about what Grandpa likes some of the time and what you like some of the time. It says on your chart that you like talking about Star Wars too. Grandma might do a little prep with Grandpa on the side to make sure he mentions some topic that he and Eliot could talk about together. The translator helps Eliot understand that he should choose a topic that he and his grandpa both find interesting.
The translator's job changes over a child's life and from situation to situation but it always involves giving the child enough information to successfully communicate or participate.