The Many Benefits of Speech Therapy for Children with Autism

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Monday, October 1, 2018

The Scott Center

People with autism may have major problems with both speech and nonverbal communication. They may also find it very hard to interact socially. For these reasons, speech therapy is a central part of treatment for autism. Speech therapy can address a wide range of communication problems for people with autism.

Autism can affect speech, language development, and social communication in many ways.

A person with autism may:

Speech Difficulties:

  • Not talk at all
  • Utter grunts, cries, shrieks, or throaty, harsh sounds
  • Hum or talk in a musical way
  • Babble with word-like sounds
  • Use foreign-sounding "words" or robotic-like speech
  • Parrot or often repeat what another person says (called echolalia)
  • Use the right phrases and sentences, but with an unexpressive tone of voice
  • Problems producing speech sounds to effectively communicate with others


Communication Difficulties:

  • Trouble with conversational skills, which include eye contact and gestures
  • Trouble understanding the meaning of words outside the context where they were learned
  • Memorization of things heard without knowing what's been said
  • Reliance on echolalia -- the repeating of another's words as they are being said -- as the main way to communicate
  • Little understanding of the meaning of words or symbols
  • Lack of creative language

Because of these challenges, a child with autism must do more than learn how to speak. The child also has to learn how to use language to communicate. This includes knowing how to hold a conversation. It also includes tuning into both verbal and nonverbal cues from other people -- such as facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language.

Therefore, speech language pathologist can play an integral role in the treatment of autism. Speech-language pathologists are therapists who specialize in treating language problems and speech disorders. With early screening and detection of people at risk, speech therapists often lead the way in helping with the diagnosis of autism and in making referrals to other specialists.

Once autism is diagnosed, speech therapists assess the best ways to improve communication and enhance a person's quality of life. Throughout therapy, the speech-language pathologist also works closely with the family, school, and other professionals. If someone with autism is non-verbal or has major trouble with speech, the speech therapist may introduce alternatives to speech.

Speech therapy can provide several benefits including improve overall communication. This makes it possible for people with autism to improve their ability to form relationships and function in day-to-day life.

Specific goals of speech therapy may include helping the individual with autism:

  • Articulate words well
  • Communicate both verbally and nonverbally
  • Comprehend verbal and nonverbal communication, understanding others' intentions in a range of settings
  • Initiate communication without prompting from others
  • Know the appropriate time and place to communicate something; for example, when to say "good morning"
  • Develop conversational skills
  • Exchange ideas
  • Communicate in ways to develop relationships
  • Enjoy communicating, playing, and interacting with peers
  • Learn self-regulation

For the greatest success, people with diagnosed with ASD should begin speech therapy as early as possible. Autism spectrum disorder is usually evident before age 3, and language delays can be recognized as early as 18 months of age. It is very important to start speech therapy as early as possible, when it can have the greatest impact. Intensive, individualized treatment can help lessen the disabling isolation that may result from this social communication disability.

With early identification and intervention, two out of three preschoolers with autism improve communication skills and their grasp of spoken language. Research shows those who improve the most are often those who receive the most speech therapy.

The Scott Center for Autism Treatment provides in-house and telehealth Speech Therapy, please contact us at thescottcenter@fit.edu more information on an evaluation.

To find a speech-language pathologist outside of The Scott Center for Autism Treatment, go to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's web site at www.asha.org.

Sources:

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: "Principles for Speech-Language Pathologists in Diagnosis, Assessment, and Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders Across the Life Span;" "Treatment Efficacy Summary;'' and "Roles and Responsibilities of Speech-Language Pathologists in Diagnosis, Assessment, and Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders Across the Life Span."

Autism Research Institute: "Music Therapy and Language for the Autistic Child."

Association for Science in Autism Treatment: "Auditory Integration Training (AIT)" and "Oral-Motor Training/Therapy.”

https://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/benefits-speech-therapy-autism#1