Speech-language therapy is recommended for almost everyone diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. This makes sense because most children with autism have impaired communication that requires assistance. Even those with high functioning autism can benefit from speech-language therapy.


What is Speech-language Therapy?

Speech therapy is the treatment of speech and communication disorders; thus, it is a broad field. Speech therapy may assist children with stuttering or lisps in accurately pronouncing words. Speech therapy also helps children with developmental disabilities in understanding and using spoken language in a social environment.


A certified speech-language pathologist (SLP) is a communication specialist who must have a master’s degree. That professional may work in a private setting, a clinic, a school, or an institution, or as part of an educational team. They employ various tools and therapies, including toys and play-like treatment, as well as formal tests and speech curriculum.


Does Speech Therapy Help Autism?

Autism spectrum disorder is most commonly identified in early childhood, while communication abilities are still developing. To varying degrees, the condition makes it difficult for children to communicate. Some children may not speak or have limited speaking ability, while others communicate in great depth about specific topics.


According to studies, two out of three children with autism improve their communication abilities and understanding of spoken language when identified early and receive appropriate treatment. According to research, those who receive ongoing speech treatment are more likely to progress


Speech therapy can help children with autism improve their spoken language, enhance nonverbal abilities, and learn to communicate in new ways. SLPs can teach parents how to improve their child’s communication skills in various ways that are suited to the child’s abilities, communication situations, and family requirements.


For children with ASD, there are a variety of evidence-based treatment options, including Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), activity schedules/visual supports, computer-assisted learning, video-based instruction, behavioral interventions, cognitive behavioral therapy, play-based interventions, social communication/social skills interventions, literacy interventions, relationship-based interventions, parent-implemented interventions and coaching and routines-based intervention.


Online Speech Therapy for Autism

Speech and language therapy is essential for children with ASD so that they may reach their potential. Speech-language therapy can be delivered to these children in person or online.


However, it is crucial to highlight that there are several advantages to delivering this service online since teletherapy provides opportunities that are not available with in-person therapy. Families can assure a favorable outcome with online speech therapy by considering the following factors:


Parent Coaching – Caregivers of children with ASD can learn to connect with their children by participating in online speech therapy. The SLP can collaborate closely with the family to create a treatment plan that includes tactics and activities for eliciting effective communication. The SLP has the advantage of working with the parent in their home environment. Furthermore, parents are their child’s primary educators from birth. It is highly beneficial to the child when their parents constantly repeat the same language modeled by their SLP.


Sensory Input – Many children with autism struggle to comprehend the sensory information they get from their surroundings. Changing the visual, aural, and tactile signals that a child receives increases their attention span and participation. Simple modifications, such as altering the lighting brightness or the volume of a video, may make a big difference in the quality of an online therapy session.


Use Real Objects – A common misperception that only digital items can be used in online therapy. The utilization of real objects in the environment will assist young children, especially those with ASD. This form of tangible learning is ideal for the development of functional communication in everyday situations like mealtimes. Your child’s SLP can educate you on utilizing toys, books, and ordinary things in your house to help your child learn new words.


Movement – Another misconception regarding online therapy is that a child must sit and pay attention in front of the computer for the whole therapy session. While attention is necessary, flexibility is critical. During therapy sessions, including movements into a language exercise, such as singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” while having the child motion and rock their body back and forth, helps enhance a child’s attention while also enhancing their language learning ability.


Speech Therapy Activities for Autism at Home

Children with autism experience speech and language impairments that range from mild social language impairment to entirely non-verbal. With that in mind, here are some speech therapy approaches available that your child’s SLP may teach you so that you can continue to work with your child at home..


Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

PECS is an AAC (alternative augmentative communication) method that teaches functional dialogue. PECS is a picture-based communication system for children with autism. The concept is that a child is encouraged to use pictures to ask for something and then trade them for what they ask. PECS can be a relatively simple way to begin; but, if the system works well for your child, you can add pictures and eventually build sentences. It can sometimes assist nonverbal children in developing their spoken language.  Your child’s SLP will set up the system and guide the family with how to use it.


Play & Social Interaction

Play therapy is an excellent approach to encourage communication in autistic children. Play can assist children with autism in connecting with others and expressing themselves in meaningful ways. Basic floor time is a simple but effective style of play. To foster engagement, sit on the floor with your child and let them play with an object while replicating what they do. The goal is to build a game that you and your child could play back and forth to promote communication. To get their attention, you could play some enjoyable activities like blowing bubbles or rolling a ball. If they enjoy the game, they will try to communicate with you that they are enjoying it and ask for more.


Intensive Interaction Therapy

Intensive interaction is a technique of autism speech treatment that communicates through body language. The concept is that by monitoring and reflecting on the child’s behavior, the person participating in the intensive connection tunes the child in and builds emotional involvement. For instance, if your child moves, you imitate it or replicate it if they make an expression. With turn-taking and response, you should be able to create a connection and develop an interaction.


Final Thoughts

To summarize, speech therapy for children with autism provides a means to improve their communication skills. Families can get treatment for their children either in person or online. When looking for treatment, make sure you identify a speech-language pathologist (SLP) who is licensed, ASHA certified, and has experience with children on the autism spectrum.  Your child’s SLP will work with you on developing an individualized plan to improve your child’s communication.


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