Benefits of Speech Therapy for Autism
Autism is a developmental disability that usually shows up before age 3. It is part of a group of neurological disorders that may involve impaired communication, as well as impaired social interactions and cognitive skills. Known as autism spectrum disorder or ASD, autism may be linked with a wide range of traits.
- Repetitive activities
- Extreme resistance to changes in daily routines
- Unusual responses to things such as touch
- Inability to interact with environment
People with ASD may have major problems with both speech and non-verbal communication. They may also find it very hard to interact socially. Speech therapy can address these communication problems for people with autism.
Understanding Speech and Communication Problems
Autism can affect speech, language development, and social communication in many ways.
Speech Problems: A person with autism may 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 ; or, use the right phrases and sentences, but with an unexpressive tone of voice. About one out of three people with autism has trouble producing speech sounds to effectively communicate with others. The person’s language, if present, is simply too hard to understand.
Communication Problems: A person with autism may have one or more communication challenges. These may include trouble with conversational skills, which include eye contact and gestures; trouble understanding the meaning of words outside the context where they were learned; or lack of creative language. Because of these challenges, a child with autism must not only learn how to speak, but also has to learn how to use language to communicate.
Role of Speech Therapy in treating Autism
Speech-language pathologists are therapists who specialize in treating language problems and speech disorders. They are a key part of the autism treatment team. Once autism is diagnosed, speech therapists assess the best ways to improve communication and enhance a person’s quality of life. The speech-language pathologist also works closely with family, school and others throughout the therapy. Speech therapy techniques may include:
- Electronic “talkers”
- Signing or typing
- Using picture boards with words, known as picture exchange communication systems that start out using pictures instead of words to help a child learn to communicate
- Using sounds to which a person is over- or under-sensitive to expand and compress speech sounds
- Improving articulation of speech by massaging or exercising lips or facial muscles
Benefits of Speech Therapy
Speech therapy can 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 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
Two out of three preschoolers with autism have shown an improvement in communication skills and their grasp of spoken language, thanks to speech therapy. This shows a positive result and renewed hope for children with autism.