Children with autism greatly benefit from attending speech therapy, as these children often have challenges with their communication and social skills, and difficulties with social cues and conversations (ASHA, 2020). Each case is different; while some children may be non-verbal, other children may speak fluently. Regardless of language, their diagnosis can make it difficult for them to socialize, converse, and make friends.
Autism often comes with restricted or repetitive behaviors; these behaviors can affect a child’s ability to communicate. A child with autism may get stuck on one conversational topic, such as their favorite TV show, and have difficulty changing topics. This carries over into their daily life.
Because autism can present in many ways, signs and symptoms can go unnoticed. Indications that a child has autism can come at a very young age, with signs and symptoms changing as the child ages (ASHA, 2020). Regardless of presentation, most children will be negatively impacted in terms of their social skills, behaviors, and overall communication.
A child with autism often struggles with social skills; it can be hard for them to take turns in conversation, understand how others feel, join in play with others, share toys or attention, and make and keep friends. These behaviors can make it seem that the child is uninterested in making friends or connecting (ASHA, 2020).
Autism-related behaviors may further impact a child’s ability to communicate and interact with others. For example, a child with autism may be interested in only a few topics or objects and have trouble transitioning between activities. A child may also react strongly for unknown reasons and repeat certain behaviors (ASHA, 2020). These behaviors can interfere with a child’s ability to socialize with their peers.
This leads to a child’s overall communication. Communication involves four areas: talking, understanding, reading, and writing. A child with autism may have challenges in each of these areas. Regarding talking, a child with autism may be hard to understand, talk very little, or be completely nonverbal; they may instead use challenging behaviors to communicate wants/needs (ASHA, 2020). A child with autism may also repeat words or phrases or use a robotic or singsong voice when communicating with others. A child with autism may also have difficulty understanding and using words and gestures, following directions, and learning to read and write (ASHA, 2020). These communication deficits can tremendously impact a child’s daily interactions.
If your child is presenting with these deficits or showing signs of autism, it is important to get them tested. Testing is typically done by a team that includes a medical doctor, neurologist, developmental psychologist, and speech-language pathologist (ASHA, 2020). Not all children with social communication challenges present with autism and the speech-language pathologist will help make this distinction.
The earlier a child is tested and treated, the better their outcomes. Having a child with autism work with a speech-language pathologist is advantageous, as they can assist the child in building their communication and social skills. If the child is nonverbal or speaks very little, the SLP can also determine if the child is a good candidate for an augmentative and alternative communication device (AAC) and teach them how to use it. Speech therapy is highly individualized and is based on the child’s specific needs and deficits, aiming to increase functional communication across environments and communication partners.
Please reach out to Chatterbox if your child has autism and you would like to start receiving speech therapy services. Our speech therapists are highly trained and educated with this population and are ready to serve your family!
Autism. (2020). American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Retrieved from https://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/autism/#:~:text=Other%20Resources-,About%20Autism,making%20friends%20and%20communicating%20socially.
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