Can Speech Therapy Help with Autism?
The Value of Speech Therapy for Autism
Speech therapy is an essential tool in helping treat the communication and social issues that often accompany autism spectrum disorder (ASD), often simply referred to as autism. Autism is part of a group of neurological disorders that impair social interaction, cognitive skills, and communication.
Autism is believed to be linked to many traits. Among these traits are having major or minor issues with speech and communication, often up to becoming nonverbal. It can often also be difficult for those with autism to socially interact, as well.
Many of the communication problems experienced by those with autism can be treated with speech therapy. Every individual will experience different results due to where they land on the autism spectrum, but speech therapy is considered a central aspect of treatment.
Today, we’re going to explore the relationship between speech therapy and autism. The goal is to help those with autism, or their caregivers, understand how speech therapy can help and when it’s time to begin.
What are the Common Speech Problems Associated with Autism?
There are several ways in which autism can impact language development, social communication, and speech. Some of the common speech problems experienced by those with autism:
- Use the correct words and phrases, but use an unexpressive tone of voice
- Do not speak entirely
- Talk in a musical way
- Use word-like sounds that are not actually words
- Use robotic speech or words that sound like another language
- Echolalia, or repeating what another person is saying
Beyond the above issues with speech, there can often be issues with overall communication. Some of the communication issues that someone with autism might experience are:
- Difficulty maintaining eye contact and making gestures
- Trouble understanding words outside of the context where they were learned
- Memorizing what they hear but not know what it means
- Reliance on echolalia as a primary method of communication
- Not understanding the meaning of symbols or words
Due to the above communication issues, someone with autism must do much more than simply learn the fundamentals of speech. They must often learn communication skills that will enable them to hold a conversation. Conversation skills include “tuning in” to both nonverbal and verbal cues from others, like body language, tone, and facial expressions.
How Does Speech Therapy Help With Autism?
Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are specialized therapists who treat a variety of language and speech disorders. They are considered a core member of the treatment team. Furthermore, SLPs are often key in helping recognize ASD in their patients and then referring them to other specialists for the rest of their treatment.
After someone has been diagnosed with autism, an SLP will determine the best way to help improve the communication skills of the person, with the focus being on providing an enhanced quality of life. For those who are nonverbal or have major trouble speaking, a speech therapist may introduce speech alternatives.
An SLP will also work with the family, school, and other professionals who are involved in providing care to the person with autism. They will help those close to the person learn how to effectively communicate with them.
Some speech therapy techniques include:
- Electronic devices that are known as “talkers”
- Typing or signing
- A picture exchange communication system, which uses pictures instead of words and slowly replaces the pictures with words
- Using sounds that the person might be sensitive to in order to expand or compress speech sounds
- Improve articulation with specific facial massages
- Sing songs that mimic the rhythm and flow of speaking
Each of these techniques can help someone with autism become more comfortable speaking and communicating. An SLP will use their expertise to determine which methods will be most effective for the patient.
Benefits of Speech Therapy for Autism Spectrum Disorder
There are several ways that speech therapy can improve communication skills for someone with autism. The goal is always to enhance the quality of life of the patient by helping them function in day-to-day life.
The specific benefits of autism will depend on the stated goals and treatment methods used. Some of the reported benefits of speech therapy for those with ASD are:
- Improve articulation
- Be able to communicate verbally and nonverbally
- Understand others intentions when communicating
- Learn when to initiate contact without a prompt from others
- Knowing when to say the appropriate phrase
- Overall improvement in conversational skills
- Become empowered to exchange ideas with others
- Allow for the development of relationships with others
- Enjoy playing and interacting with others
When Should You Begin Speech Therapy?
The earlier someone with autism begins speech therapy, the better. Since speech therapy is a core aspect of autism treatment, it should begin immediately after someone has been diagnosed. Early identification and speech intervention can greatly improve their communication skills and quality of life.
Are you looking for speech therapy services for your child with autism? Have you been put on a long speech therapy waitlist?
Get immediate help with our online speech therapy course designed for parents of toddlers with autism. Click below to learn more about our self-guided speech therapy courses.