Autism Speech Therapy
Children on the autism spectrum may present with a multitude of difficulties in different areas. One of the most debilitating problems is their difficulty with communication. This hampers their ability to communicate in a meaningful way with their parents, family, and other children.
Autism speech therapy is a type of therapy designed specifically for people who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). No child with autism presents with identical communication difficulties. Autism can be diagnosed in infancy, school age, or later where the person may present with Asperger’s syndrome.
Children with ASD may present with a lack of pre-speech patterns, such as not maintaining eye contact during feeding as an infant or the absence of vocalizing or cooing and babbling. Babbling is an important stage in early speech development, where the baby learns how to move their lips and tongue to create sounds that will develop into words. If your baby does not babble, this may be the first indication that your child has delayed language due to ASD. If you notice any of the above or that your child has a sudden loss of previously acquired speech, contact your pediatrician who will refer you to a Speech Therapist for an evaluation.
Early intervention gives children with autism the best chance in life to achieve a method of communicating. Autism speech therapy will always begin with the therapist taking a detailed case history of the child’s early development and specifically the development of their language. An informal assessment will be done with a young child.
Autism speech therapy helps children learn how to communicate through both verbal and non-verbal methods.
They may not respond to smiles, facial expressions, and gestures. Additionally, Children with ASD seldom use “back-and-forth gestures”, such as pointing and reaching for food or toys. Echolalia is the repetition of the same words and phrases in a meaningful manner. Other children on the autism spectrum may be non-verbal and require alternative and augmentative communication systems. The Speech therapist determines the child’s strengths and weaknesses to develop an Individual Education Program (IEP) in conjunction with the therapy team. The therapist will set specific goals that your child can achieve. Speech therapy is fun, and many activities can be used to achieve these goals.
Communication encompasses receptive and expressive language. Receptive language refers to the understanding of gestures and spoken language. Expressive language refers to how a child uses words to express himself. As children develop their vocabulary, they begin to communicate their needs. A child with delayed vocabulary usually has difficulty asking for something they need, and this can cause frustration. They may have temper tantrums, which cause a great deal of stress to their parents.
Most children with autism require speech therapy to develop their social language skills, which is known as pragmatic language.
This is the area where the speech therapist will help the child on the autism spectrum to learn how social cues such as eye contact, facial expressions, and body language can make a difference in their ability to communicate and understand others’ communications. These are skills that need to be taught as it does not come naturally to them.
Children on the Autism Spectrum need to learn to communicate their thoughts, ideas, and feelings in a non-verbal or verbal manner. They also have difficulty understanding social language and emotions as these are abstract language skills. They may also have trouble with problem-solving, understanding humor, making informed decisions, and determining solutions for different situations. An example of learning multiple responses for situations, would be to ask the child “what would you do if you left your keys in the car?”
We recommend that parents provide opportunities for social interaction. This may require you to guide your child to take turns with activities. Social stories are a fun way to develop pragmatic skills.
Therapists and parents will assist to develop a routine for the child on the autism spectrum. Consistency and routine help them to cope in all areas of their lives. This also has a positive effect on their behavior. They will work together with you as parents to create specific goals that help children on the autism spectrum achieve their desired outcomes. This is where autism speech therapy comes in. The therapist uses repetition to develop correct speech patterns with pictures placed in a sequence to teach the child what to expect during the day.
Alternative Augmentative Communication Systems (AAC)
There are various alternative means of communication such as Picture Exchange Communication Systems (PECS) , electronic talking devices, and communication boards that may be required to enable a non -verbal child on the autism spectrum to communicate:
A Picture Exchange Communication System consists of pictures that children can exchange to communicate.
This can be used for children and adults. There are six phases of this program.
How to Communicate
Individuals learn to exchange single pictures for items or activities they really want.
Distance and Persistence
Still using single pictures, individuals learn to generalize this new skill by using it in different places, with different people and across distances. They are also taught to be more persistent communicators.
Individuals learn to select from two or more pictures to ask for their favorite things. These are placed in a PECS Communication Book—a ringed binder with self-adhesive hook fastener strips where pictures are stored and easily removed for communication.
Individuals learn to construct simple sentences on a detachable Sentence Strip using an “I want” picture followed by a picture of the item being requested.
ATTRIBUTES & LANGUAGE EXPANSION
Individuals learn to expand their sentences by adding adjectives, verbs and prepositions.
Individuals learn to use PECS to answer questions such as “What do you want?”
Individuals are taught to comment in response to questions such as, “What do you see?”, “What do you hear?” and “What is it?” They learn to make up sentences starting with “I see”, “I hear”, “I feel”, “It is a”, etc.
ALTERNATIVE AUGMENTATIVE DEVICES
An alternative augmentative device is an assistive technology that is used for non-verbal people to communicate.
Pictures and words are on an electronic device. The person touches the button, and the device speaks for them. The device can be set for a male or female voice.
This provides independence for the person with autism, without having to read if they are unable to do so. The more advanced systems enable the person to communicate their needs by them pointing to two or more pictures to form a sentence.
Another alternative communication method is to create an individualized communication board for the non-verbal child on the autism spectrum so that he can point to pictures to express himself.
Speech therapists work in a team with parents, teachers, psychologists, occupational therapists, and behavior therapists. Parents are the most important member of the team, and the good news is that there are fun activities that you can do at home to help your child learn how to speak more clearly.
Difficulties with Social Skills
Children with ASD also have difficulty understanding other people’s feelings. They often prefer to play alone and do not want to interact with anyone. This extends to their play where the child on the autism spectrum will be unable to share toys or play constructively. They may be very particular about the activities. The speech therapist will teach the child how to “read” different emotions using pictures that go together with different situations.This results in them having difficulty making friendships as well as learning appropriate ways to interact with others. Autism support groups can be a great help.
Play therapy usually begins as soon as the child is diagnosed with autism. Early intervention is paramount to the child reaching his potential. Parents sometimes sit in on therapy, which helps them to learn to relate more fully to their children on the spectrum and to assist with carry-over at home. Play therapy is a valuable addition to speech therapy for children on the autism spectrum, especially non-verbal children. All children learn through play, but they may play in very different ways. Babies learn by playing with toys. They use trial and error to manipulate toys.
As a parent, you may notice that your child plays alone, and his play is repetitive. He may line up toys and sit and watch a specific item for a long time.Their play may not be constructive, and they have no goal in mind. This results in a delay in their physical and social development as they do not make sense of their world adequately.There are also schools specifically for learners with autism. A therapist may work alone or in groups. Autism speech therapy aims to improve the quality of life for our children with this condition. Sign up for The Therapy Place’s email newsletter to get more information, tips, and at-home exercises for your children. Go to therapyplacenj.com