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10 Ways Speech Therapy Can Help Children with Autism

The prevalence of autism is higher now than it has ever been. Many families are raising, loving, and supporting autistic children and are on a continuous journey to find the best resources for their development. At some point in that journey, you’ll probably stumble upon speech therapy and wonder if your child could benefit from seeing a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) or speech therapist. The answer is probably “Yes!” but please be sure to look for an SLP that specializes in pediatrics and autism.

The field of speech therapy is very broad. Not every speech therapist is trained to work with children and some SLPs have specific specialities. The right SLP can help address your child’s communication development while also opening doors for more effective social interaction and personal development for autistic children. Let’s explore the 10 ways speech therapy can help. 

Signs Your Child May Need Speech Therapy

There are speech and language milestones that are the most common for all children to reach at certain times in their lives. However, by the time a child with autism turns three, you might start to see a plateau in their development or some differences in their communication skills such as:

  • Echolalia (repeating what they hear)

  • Monotone speaking

  • Using a range of sounds to communicate rather than using words

  • Humming or singing words for an extended period

  • Not speaking at all

Some of the most common patterns of language and behaviors among children with autism include(1):

  • Repetitive language (like echolalia or repeating words, sentences, or sounds they like)

  • Rigid language (injecting misplaced information into a conversation)

  • Uneven language development (speech and language skills develop but not to the expected level of ability)

  • Poor nonverbal communication skills 

If your autistic child is having difficulties in any of the following ways, then you would benefit from the guidance of an SLP who specializes in pediatrics and autism:

  1. Difficulty following directions

  2. Difficulty responding to their name

  3. Difficulty speaking in social situations

  4. Indistinct speaking where you can’t understand what they are saying by age four

  5. Using one-word sentences

  6. Repeating what they hear for a long time

  7. Shrieking, grunting, or using other sounds to communicate without words

  8. Difficulty tracking and following conversations

These are just a few of the signs that it may be time to see a speech therapist but trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right to you in the way your child communicates, call a speech therapy clinic for help. 

Autism Challenges Addressed in Speech Therapy

Autistic individuals often have difficulty with social communication, social interactions, expressive and receptive language, and emotional regulation. Speech therapy can help and it’s most effective when started early through early intervention programs. While speech therapy can address many challenges children with autism face, we split these into two categories: core challenges and social communication challenges. 

Core Challenges Helped Through Speech Therapy

  • Verbal Communication Skills: developing better speaking skills enabling them to verbalize their thoughts and needs more clearly and effectively. This will significantly decrease their frustration and reduce the intensity of tantrums and behaviors caused by frustration.

  • Non-verbal Communication Skills: improving non-verbal cues like body language and facial expressions, which are crucial for those who may find verbal communication challenging.

  • Vocabulary Development: expanding the range of words a child can understand and use, enhancing their ability to communicate complex ideas.

  • Speech Clarity and Fluency: children are assisted in articulating words more clearly, thus improving their overall speech fluency.

  • Reading, Writing, and Storytelling Skills: developing literacy skills is often a part of speech and language therapy, supporting overall communication abilities.

Social Communication Challenges with Autism

  • Expressing Emotions: helps children identify and express their emotions in a healthy and understandable way.

  • Managing Sensory Issues: for children with autism who have difficulty with sensory sensitivities, speech therapy can include self-advocacy skills that teach your child what they need and how to ask for it.

  • Understanding and Using Language: enhances the comprehension of spoken and written language, which is vital for effective communication.

  • Social Interaction: social skills training that helps children engage with peers and adults more effectively.

  • Family and Parental Support: providing guidance and support for the entire family on more effective communication between parents and children.

Core Speech Challenges

Social Communication Challenges

What to Expect from Speech Therapy as a Parent

Parents play a critical role in the success of speech therapy. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Initial Assessment: The therapist will assess your child’s communication abilities to create a personalized therapy plan.

  • Regular Sessions: Therapy typically involves regular therapy sessions, which might be weekly or more frequent, depending on your child's needs.

  • Parental Involvement: Therapists often provide strategies and exercises for parents to practice at home, making therapy a collaborative effort.

  • Progress Tracking: Regular evaluations will track your child’s progress and adjust strategies as needed.

  • Support and Guidance: Therapists offer support and guidance to parents and caregivers, helping them understand how best to communicate with their child.

Speech therapy for autism is not a one-size-fits-all approach but a journey tailored to each child’s unique needs. We create tailored plans that address the unique challenges and strengths of each child. As a parent, your understanding, patience, and involvement are crucial in this journey. With the right support and professional guidance, speech therapy can open new avenues of communication and interaction for your child, enriching their life and yours.



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