What It Is
Speech therapy addresses problems for people who have trouble using spoken language to communicate, whether it's from a developmental disability or a physical injury. Because children with autism show delays in their development of communication skills and the use of language to relate to others, speech therapists are often called upon to evaluate children for the diagnosis before delivering services to help children learn to communicate.
How It Works
Like every educational approach to teaching autistic children, it's a step-by-step process. The Council noted about early steps: "Speech is taught as a verbal behavior, and objectives are targeted beginning with verbal imitation, following one-step commands, receptive discrimination of body parts, objects, person names and pictures, and expressive labeling in response to questions. Later, language objectives include prepositions, pronouns, same/different and yes/no."
Important to Know
Since speech is such a key element of a child's development, experts in autism education often discuss delivering services such as speech therapy in conjunction with other behavioral approaches like ABA to promote communication opportunities through a child's day (not just in school or a clinician's office).
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the professional group for speech pathologists, specifically calls upon its members working with autistic individuals to collaborate with families and other professionals who are working with the same client—a practice also urged by the AAP.
Speech Therapy Resources
- Educating Children with Autism, a book published in 2001 by The National Research Council's Committee on Educational Interventions for Children with Autism. (See pages 49-51 for a discussion on speech therapy as a strategy for addressing core communication deficits.)
- Principles for Speech-Language Pathologists in Diagnosis, Assessment, and Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders Across the Life Span, a paper published by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association for its members
- Management of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, a book published in November 2007 by the American Academy of Pediatrics. (This paper by the nation's group for pediatricians has a useful section on the importance of speech therapy in helping people with autism communicate.)