Speech Therapy for Kids With Autism
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Receiving an autism diagnosis can feel both relieving and daunting. You’ve got a name for what your child is experiencing, but there are still so many questions. Deficits in communication skills can make it even harder to understand how to help.
This article will explain one of the most popular courses of action: speech therapy. Read on for more information about how speech therapy for autism works, how it can help your child, and what to know before getting started.
What Is Speech Therapy?
Speech therapy is an iteration of the greater science of speech-language pathology. Specialists in this field study how the brain processes and produces language and how speech is generated in search of potential treatments for language and communication disorders.
Speech therapists help their clients communicate more effectively by building on verbal and non-verbal skills while providing strategies to improve motor control of the face, lips, mouth, and tongue. The primary goal of speech therapy is to improve an individual’s ability to express and understand language, ideally making their daily life easier to navigate.
Speech therapists work with patients on a variety of issues including:
- Articulation difficulties (problems pronouncing words)
- Language delays (difficulties understanding or expressing language)
- Voice problems include hoarseness, pitch and volume issues, poor breath support, and speaking too quickly or slowly.
Speech therapy for autism is a little more targeted and designed to tackle the common challenges of daily living faced by people with ASD. It addresses fundamental communication skills, social skills, and food aversion issues. A Speech-Language Pathologist, or SLP, can use a range of approaches to connect differently-wired minds to the rest of the world, including sign language and assistive technology like Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC).
What are the Benefits of Speech Therapy?
Speech therapy is widely considered among the best treatments for autism-related communication problems. While practitioners saw better results in cases of early intervention, in-clinic and home-based treatments have helped patients of all ages.
Investing in speech therapy for autism today can mean many benefits for your child tomorrow, including:
Drastically Improved Communication
While it’s important to emphasize that nothing happens overnight, strict adherence to and engagement in autism speech therapy can improve communicative abilities. Early autism intervention programs often heavily consist of speech therapy and physical and occupational treatments.
Increased Comfort in Social Situations
Autism Spectrum Disorder can bring several social challenges, and the inability to communicate effectively is often their prime driver. Help from a trained Speech Language Pathologist empowers children to interact with the world around them with less anxiety.
Expanded Vocabulary and Understanding of Language Concepts
Autism speech therapy typically focuses on teaching new words, phrases, and sentence structures. It may include instruction on the proper use of grammar and understanding concepts like metaphor and figurative language.
Reduced Feeding Challenges
Food aversion is rooted in sensory processing differences, but speech therapy can help children tolerate and enjoy mealtimes. Speech therapists often use a variety of strategies to encourage the exploration of new textures and flavors.
Assistance with Non-Verbal Communication
Of course, words aren’t the only way someone can express themselves. Speech therapy for autism is usually verbal, but it can also involve teaching sign language and body language. Assistive technology such as augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices can also help individuals with non-verbal autism learn to share their feelings in an effective way.
What Does Speech Therapy Consist Of?
As is the case for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), speech therapy for autism patients really comes down to the individual at hand. It’s worth highlighting that the spectrum is just that – a spectrum. Where someone falls on it will define the type of help they need.
For children specifically, autism speech therapy typically consists of three main components: assessment, intervention, and evaluation.
The assessment process involves identifying and understanding the abilities, strengths, and weaknesses of who are being treated. Speech-language pathologists start off by measuring and establishing a baseline for a variety of facets of communication, from speech sounds and expressive language use (what is said verbally) to receptive language understanding (what is understood).
Once an assessment is complete, intervention may begin. Speech-language pathologists use evidence-based strategies and activities to help children build communication skills.
This can help children learn how to more accurately produce sounds, increase their understanding of language structure and vocabulary, or practice using conversation strategies. Non-verbal autism activities can also be helpful, such as using visual supports and social stories to introduce new concepts and behaviors.
Evaluation gauges how effectively the prior two elements have been in helping the child reach their goals. This part of the process calls for hands-on engagement from parents, who, more than any doctor, know their child best. Plans can be modified and adjusted if a child is not progressing or experiencing regression.
How to Find a Speech Language Pathologist
Finding a qualified Speech-Language Pathologist is the first step to unlocking the full benefits of this type of autism intervention for your child. We won’t tell you it’s easy, though – care providers are few in many areas, while specialists in speech therapy for autism are scarce.
The best way to get started is to look into your local community resources. Many areas have a Speech and Hearing Association (SHA), which can provide you with referrals to qualified providers. You can also check organizations such as the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and Autism Speaks for additional provider information.
As you consider potential options, remember that credentials alone aren’t always enough to ensure that a provider will be the right fit for your family. You’ll want to research their experience with autism-specific interventions, locate references from other families, and look at any available online reviews.
Other Helpful Autism Therapies
Although it has the potential to be incredibly effective, autism speech therapy isn’t the only way to support a child who lives on the spectrum. Some other forms of treatment can be just as effective or even ameliorate communication skills when used together:
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a therapy based on the idea that behavior is learned. It can help children with autism understand and practice more appropriate behavior while regulating negative or disruptive behaviors.
Occupational Therapy (OT)
Occupational therapy focuses on helping children develop life skills and independence by practicing daily activities like toileting, dressing, eating, writing, and drawing.
Social Skills Therapy
Social skills therapy is designed to help children understand and use appropriate social behavior, such as interacting with peers and understanding nonverbal communication like facial expressions or body language. This type of therapy can be delivered in either a group or individual setting.
Heartlinks Is The Destination For Autism Therapy
Every type of autism intervention can make an impact – but efficiently getting from point A to point B through treatments like autism speech therapy means having a qualified care provider by your side. Heartlinks is proud to be the supportive shoulder countless families across Atlanta, Indiana, and New Jersey rely on for speech therapy for autism and other life-changing services. Reach out to learn if your child is eligible today.