If your child has autism, they may have major difficulties with speech and communication, making it difficult for them to interact socially.  In such circumstances, your doctor may refer your child to a speech therapist.  But what can speech therapy do for your autistic child and what's involved?

Communication problems caused by autism

A child with autism may have the following problems with speech:

  • may have no speech at all
  • may make grunts, shrieks, or guttural throaty noises, instead of understandable words
  • may speak in what sounds like a foreign language
  • may just repeat what someone else says (echolalia)
  • may use the correct words or phraseology, but with no expression whatsoever

The role of speech therapy in treating autistic children

Once a definitive diagnosis of autism in a child has been made, the speech therapist will play a key role in helping to improve the child's communication skills.  Your speech therapist will work closely with your whole family, your child's school, and other medical professionals involved in your child's care.  In cases where your child has no verbal ability whatsoever, the speech therapist will introduce other forms of communication.

Some of the most commonly-used techniques employed by speech therapists when treating children with autism may include the following:

  • typing or signing
  • electronic 'talkers'
  • the use of picture boards
  • using songs to help match the stress, flow and rhythm of sentences
  • helping to improve articulation by exercising the child's facial muscles and lips through massage

Your child's speech therapist will discuss and explain a proposed programme of speech therapy fully with you before they begin to work with your child.  Often, you will be given a communication regimen to use with your child at home between consultations, and your speech therapist will give your thorough instructions and training on this.

The sooner your child begins working with a speech therapist the better.  Autism is usually evident during infancy, and an early start in intensive treatment can help to reduce the disabling long-term effects that speech and communication problems can cause.

In conclusion

If your child has autism, your doctor will probably recommend that they begin treatment for speech problems as soon as possible.  Your child will need to attend regular consultations with a speech therapist and you'll need to continue the therapy at home.  However, the effort will be worth it to improve your child's communication and social skills as they grow up.

For more information, talk to a therapist like communiKIDS.