Does Speech Therapy Help Autism?

Autism can affect speech, language development, and social communication in many ways. Autism and speech disorders have an association and a person with autism can show various speech problems like not talking at all, communicating with grunts, cries, shrieks, or throaty, harsh sounds, babbling or humming, constantly repeating another person’s words (echolalia), using robot-like speech or speaking with an unexpressive tone. Persons with autism may also have communication issues  such as having trouble with conversational skills, which include eye contact and gestures, difficulty in understanding the meaning of words outside the context where they were learned, inability to memorize things heard without knowing what’s been said, excessive reliance on echolalia for communicating, not understanding the meaning of words or symbols completely or lacking creative language. Therefore, in addition to learning to speak, the person must also learn to use verbal and nonverbal cues in language for communication.

Can the Speech of an Autistic Person be Improved?

Speech and Language Therapy aims to help individuals communicate in functional and useful ways. Speech therapy can help people with autism improve their verbal, nonverbal, and social communication. The therapy focuses on verbal communication like the ability to ask and answer questions, speech pragmatics, the use of intonation in voice when talking, grammar and conversation skills. It also helps improve non-verbal communication like gestural communication, recognizing body language, building concept skills and developing social skills.

What is the Best Time to Start Speech Therapy for Autism?

Language delays can be recognized as early as 18 months of age. In order to have the greatest impact, it is important to start speech therapy as early as possible. Early identification and intervention in , children with autism tend to show good improvement in communication skills and grasp of spoken language. 

What Does Speech Therapy Involve?

There are various types of speech therapy for autism that therapists use based on the needs of the child. The methods to be employed are decided on by therapists from speech therapy and audiology after a thorough diagnosis. Based on this, verbal or nonverbal methods are adopted. Sometimes, music is used for therapy since autistic children respond better to songs. Speech therapy exercises are taught for better articulation. Nonverbal autism speech therapy activities involve using pictures or technology to communicate and is known as Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC). The methods include the use of Sign language, Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), iPads and Speech output devices.

Benefits of speech therapy for autism 

Speech therapy for children and for adults have met with a lot of success. The therapy includes helping the child with autism and speech problems  to articulate words well, communicate both verbally and nonverbally, comprehend verbal and nonverbal communication, understanding others’ intentions in a range of settings, initiate communication without prompting from others, to know the appropriate time and place to communicate something, develop conversational skills, exchange ideas, communicate in ways to develop relationships, enjoy communicating, playing, and interacting with peers and learn self-regulation.