Language Cards for Autism:  How to Use Them for Language Therapy

Language cards for autism are an inexpensive, useful tool for teaching basic concepts. Here is a quick guide on ways to use them for language therapy.

Patch Products has a series of cards that I really like. They are nice and big (5 1/2” x 6”), made of quality cardstock, and come in a handy tin box.

Here are some types that they offer.

Action Language Cards

Action Cards

Each card shows a picture of someone performing an action. The object is for the learner to identify the correct action or verb. Or if the child is more advanced, she can respond with a sentence that tells what the person in the picture is doing.

Depending on her abilities, she may need a lot of help with this.

Here are some techniques that we have tried. You might need to vary your approach to suit your child’s needs.

1.Depending on your child’s abilities, you may wish to start with asking her to name the correct verb. You simply ask what the person in the picture is doing, and she gives you a one-word response.

2. It may help to start a sentence for her and let her “fill in the blank.” For example, “What is he doing? He is __________________.” And let her complete the sentence.

3. Give her the appropriate feedback. After she has given you a one-word answer, say, “That’s right! She’s singing.” (Or whatever the person is doing.) If she gives you a wrong answer, say, for example, “He’s not laughing. He’s crying.”

4. Whenever you feel that she is ready for a bigger challenge, you can ask her for a sentence telling what is happening in the picture. First give her a chance to come up with the sentence. If she’s unable to do this, you could help her with each word: “She (now let her repeat) is (let her repeat) reading (let her repeat).” I find it helpful to have my son name the verb, and then work on saying the sentence.

5. Once you think she is ready for the next step, you could encourage her to give you a sentence with more information. Example: “She is reading a book.”

6. If your child is nonverbal, you could write two choices down, one correct and one incorrect. Then ask her to point to the correct answer. If she doesn’t know how to point, take her hand and help her point. Assist her with this a few times until she knows what to do.

7. As I indicated earlier, try to give her a chance to respond each time before you give the answer.

8. Try to avoid taking her to any level that will frustrate her. You don’t want to overwhelm her with more than she can handle. But you do want to give her just enough challenge to help her learn and make progress.

Category Cards

Category Cards

The purpose of these language cards is to categorize animals, food, toys, hats, shoes, dishes and musical instruments.

  1. Write the names of two of the categories (ex.: food, toys) on a dry-erase board.
  2. Hold up each card, one at a time, and ask him, “What is this?” Then he places the card in the category where he thinks it belongs.
  3. Correct his answers as needed, and use praise when appropriate.

As you can see in the image below, the cards in this set are well done and the pictures are easy to identify.  

But if you wish, you could also make your own category cards with magazine cutouts, and laminate them. Or you could do the same thing with Boardmaker pictures, and laminate them.

Trying these alternatives would be a great idea if you want to talk about other categories besides what is included in the Patch Products deck.

Category CardsCategory cards pictures are clear and realistic. Some children find it hard to identify unrealistic pictures.

Manners Cards

Manners Cards

We like to simply flip through these language cards and talk about which manners are appropriate and which are not. The way to make these rules of etiquette more real for him would be to generalize these concepts after talking about them.

One way to do this would be to talk about manners when they come up. For instance, suppose I want my son to hold the door open for his grandmother when we're visiting her at the retirement center. I can remind him of the manners card appropriate for this situation as shown below.

Opposite Cards

Opposite Cards

Opposite cards can work in a similar way. I like to go through that deck of cards and simply talk about concepts such as tall and short, thick and thin, up and down, etc.

You can reinforce these concepts by pointing out these opposites around the house, at the store, and in other places.

Once you've done this, you can then see if she understands the concept by asking her, "Which one is thick?  Which one is thin?"  If she doesn't know, give her more examples with the correct answers and later test again to see if she has learned the concept.

Opposite CardsOpposites in this set include empty/full, thick/thin, in/out, on/off and many more.

Many Ways to Use Language Cards for Autism

The instructions included with each set of cards give you more activities to try. And I’m sure you could probably come up with other ideas as well.

You can get the Patch Products brand of cards online at And I know there are other brands out there as well.*

If you have an ipad or ipod touch, take note that there are language card apps available online as well.

I hope you’ll find language cards for autism to be as useful for you as they have been for us.

* I'm receiving no compensation of any kind, either financial or otherwise, for telling you about these products.  I just really like them and thought you might also find them useful.

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