Autistic disorder refers to a condition where a person has significant social impairments, communication problem, repetitive stereotypic and restricted interest and activities.
Autism without speech is known as non verbal autism and here, main symptom is inability to speak clearly or without interference.
Communication in children with autism can be divided into two:
- Verbal mode
- Non verbal mode
In case of verbal mode the child can improve the communication by speech training with the help of a speech language pathologist. In case of non verbal mode, Speech language pathologist train the child how to communicate with others using other alternative methods such as: AAC and PECS etc. AAC means of Augmentative and Alternative Communication and PECS means Picture Exchange Communication System. These are the alternative methods which can be used in non verbal autism which uses pictures to communicate.
In general, autistic children fail to make eye contact, social smile, respond to being hugged or use gestures to communicate. Autism is three to four times more common in boys than in girls.
Behavioural signs of autism shows early in developing children by twelve months to 18 months of age.
Children with autism also wants to be alone or they are in their own private world so they have only limited ability to communicate and interact socially as they have difficulty in developing language skills and difficulty in comprehending what others are saying. Another important thing is that they have difficulty in communicating nonverbally, such as using hand gestures eye contact etc.
Children with autism have sensory issues. Sensitivity can be of two types: Hypersensitivity and Hyposensitivity. These sensory issues can cause sensory overload in children with autism spectrum disorder. Sensory overload will affect the pre linguistic skills and imitation. pre linguistic skills includes attention, sitting tolerance etc. If pre linguistic skills are affected, speech will also get affected. This is another important cause for speech delay in children with autism.
Another one is lack of stimulus, which means the child is not getting appropriate stimulus from the environment. Deprivation of stimulus for a long time can cause Speech delay. Speech delay can also occur due to increased screen time which means allowing the child to use TV and mobile phones for a longer duration.
Apraxia of speech can be associated with autism spectrum disorder. Apraxia is caused by damage in the brain pathway. This can be a cause for speech delay in autism.
Number of specialist are involved in the treatment of autism spectrum disorder such as Speech language pathologist, Occupational therapist, Paediatrician etc. Role of a Speech language pathologist is important in early intervention of autism spectrum disorder. Early diagnosis should be done. Early intervention will give better prognosis or improvement. Initially, speech language pathologist will work on pre linguistic skills such as attention, concentration, eye contact, sitting tolerance, imitation and play skill. Through pre linguistic skills imitation and play skill, child develops speech so these skills are important for speech. The speech language pathologist Start working on speech only after pre linguistic skills are achieved. Children with autism may have oral sensory issues and this will be treated by Speech language pathologist. By treating oral sensory issues speech can be improved in children with autism spectrum disorder. Occupational therapists play an important role in children with autism. They are working on sensory issues of the child with autism. They will reduce the sensory issues of the child by different approaches mainly by sensory integration therapy.
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