Autism Speech Therapy

by Sam Malone


The word autism is derived from the Greek word, ‘autos’, which means ‘self’. Thus, people who have autism will be extremely self-absorbed and will seem to exist in their own world. It is because of this that although children who suffer from autism may be highly intelligent, they will still find it difficult to communicate well with others. Most autistic children will have some level of both verbal and nonverbal communication problems, with a full quarter of all autistic children never being able to communicate properly in their lives.

It is therefore very important that speech therapy for children with autism is started at a very early age because the earlier such therapy is started, the better are the results.

Benefits

Although speech therapy is assumed to help children with a mechanical defect with their speech apparatus, it can also be useful in treating children with autism, which is more a problem in the brain than in any physical aspect.

Speech therapy is not an exact science and the amount of benefit derived differs from patient to patient. Some of the common speech therapy benefits are improvements in the following:

  • Phonation: the process by which the vocal chords produce sound.
  • Articulation: How the organs involved in speech make sound.
  • Voice
  • Syntax: Principles involved in sentence construction.
  • Semantics: Meanings of words
  • Language processing

There are also improvements in:

  • Swallowing
  • Sensory awareness related to communication
  • Cognitive aspects (attention, memory and problem solving)

Techniques

ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) is not a specific problem, but encompasses a wide range of problems. It is therefore very difficult to follow the same specific process for everyone. Realistically, the techniques employed depend on the age factor.

Young Children

For young children, the focus is on improving verbal communication starting with pre-language skills such as

  • Eye contact
  • Body movements
  • Gestures
  • Vocalization

Older Children

For older children, the focus is on the functional use of the language such as:

  • Learning how to hold a conversation with another person
  • Practicing how to staying on one topic
  • Taking turns speaking, or giving the other person a chance to talk

With such a large percentage of autism affected children never developing verbal language skills, each individual must be evaluated individually. The goals of speech therapy will therefore differ according to the evaluation made. For example, for some children the goal of using gestures or sign language for communication may be a more realistic goal.

References:

  1. www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/voice/pages/autism.aspx
  2. www.ninds.nih.gov › Disorders A - Z › Autism

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