Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition that affects communication and social interaction along with cognitive skills. Amongst various therapies practiced in this field (Occupational Therapy, Play Therapy, Applied Behavior Analysis, etc.), speech therapy aims at aiding the core challenge–to develop and strengthen the ability to express using verbal and nonverbal communication.
Each person on the spectrum has unique needs and hence each therapy session is tailored differently. Here’s a list of four essential questions related to speech therapy for ASD.
What are the communication challenges in people on the Autism spectrum?
One out of three people with autism have challenges related to speech sound, expression and effectiveness of communication. Speech issues range from not being able to talk at all to talking in grunts, hums or shrieks, expressionless use of words, echolalia (repetition of what is heard) and inability to use creative language.
Persons with autism struggle with making eye contact or using appropriate gestures or have limited understanding of word/symbol meanings. Speech therapy works on all of these issues, in a way which is most cohesive and efficient for each individual.
When should one start with speech therapy for children with Autism?
The best is to start as early as the child is diagnosed. Language delays can be identified at around 18 months; the disorder can be easily assessed by the time the child is three years, or even earlier.
Speech therapy is most effective as an early intervention. When it is consistently practiced from an early stage, the results are evident in the form of improved communication skills, effective use of spoken words and improved social interactions.
What does speech therapy involve?
To increase the quality of communication in people with autism, speech therapy combines physical, motor and audiovisual skills, along with technological aids.
Sound exercises, picture boards, singing and massage of facial muscles are regularly practiced. Persons with autism who are nonverbal are trained in using alternative methods such as electronic talkers, typing and sign language.
Speech therapy practitioners assess the child’s abilities of using speech, language and social skills. You can get in touch with Life Speech’s Therapy Services for a customized plan for screening, assessment and management of speech disorder for a loved one. Life Speech also offers training programs and workshops for professionals and caregivers.
How does speech therapy help children overcome the challenges of Autism?
Speech therapy works on improving the overall capability of children with autism to communicate effectively and to have fulfilling social relationships.
It helps the child learn to communicate and comprehend language; to initiate communication (when, where, how); to articulate their feelings and emotions through words; to exchange thoughts and ideas; and to enjoy having conversations and meaningful interactions with others.
Speech therapy also strengthens impulse and behavior control.
Aggressive behavior in children with autism is an indication of desperation regarding their inability to communicate effectively. Once they learn ways to express themselves and experience others understanding them better, their meltdowns are less severe and reduce substantially over time.