Speech Therapy Often Integral to Treating Autism
“Speech Therapy can be an important tool in the development of a child on the autism spectrum. From learning to speak to language progress, a good speech therapist can make all the difference.” – Gregory Ruel.
Portland, Maine — Many children diagnosed with autism have very little to no language by age three and beyond. A lack of language is one of the first signs of autism. A speech therapist works with the child to develop language as a first step. This will progress into teaching a child how to make requests for things like food and toys. Before too long, children may be commenting on surroundings, saying things like “the bird is flying”. Ideally, the child will start to use language for things like noticing the emotions of others, such as “the boy is sad”. Indeed, once a child with autism begins to speak on his own, a speech therapist can plan loftier goals, such as initiating and maintaining an age-appropriate/ socially appropriate conversation.
Speech therapy is a widely recognized way to treat language deficiencies in autistic youths. According to WebMD, classic speech issues for children with autism include:
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 (called echolalia)
- Use the right phrases and sentences, but with an unexpressive tone of voice
The inability to speak is only the beginning. WebMD also notes communication problems even for those children who can speak including:
Communication problems. A person with autism may have one or more of these communication challenges:
- 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
A speech therapist serves as an integral part of the team responsible for teaching a child with autism. They are professionals who can assist in diagnosis through early detection and will make referrals on behalf of the child, recommendations on treatment, and often assist in a school setting. Finally, a speech therapist will work with a child on the spectrum to introduce alternatives to speech if necessary and ultimately work to improve the child’s communication to the outside world through any means possible.
Gregory Ruel (Portland, Maine)
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