September 18, 2012

Speech Therapy for Autism

Posted in Category : Child Health

Autism can be described as a developmental disorder that usually becomes evident by or before the age of 3. Some of the traits that are commonly associated with autism include verbal or nonverbal impairments, repetitive activities, resistance to changes, unusual responses, lack of coordination and hyper focus on certain areas of interest. Kids who have autism also find it difficult to interact socially with other kids and people. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disorder, though medication and therapy can help improve behavioral patterns to a great extent. Speech is one of the major problems evident in children suffering from autism and therefore, health experts almost always recommend speech therapy for children with autism.

There are various types of speech problems that may be evident in children who are autistic. People suffering from autism may:

  • Not speak at all
  • Babble, using word-like sounds
  • Hum or talk, with a constant musical lilt
  • Repeat what other people say (echolalia)
  • Say the right sentences and phrases, but without any expression or tone
  • Use robot-like speech or foreign-sounding words
  • Utter harsh sounds, cries, grunts or shrieks

Children at the lower end of the autism spectrum are usually nonverbal, while children on the higher end of the spectrum are extremely verbal. However, even those kids who are verbal may misunderstand or misuse language quite often. On the other hand, nonverbal kids can develop communication and maybe even spoken language skills over a period of time. Therefore, speech therapy is recommended for all children who have been diagnosed with autism.

Speech therapy is a part of autism treatment, which addresses the communication and speech problems faced by the child. This therapy involves a lot more, than just teaching a child how to say words correctly. It is a fairly wide-ranging field, in which several different tools and interventions are used. Some of the common techniques and speech therapy ideas for autism include –

  • Electronic talkers
  • Typing
  • Signing
  • Using picture boards with words
  • Producing sounds to which a person is under or over-sensitive
  • Massaging and exercising lips or facial muscles
  • Singing specially composed songs to match the rhythm, flow and stress of sentences

Some of these techniques are more supported by studies and research, as compared to others.

Depending upon the speech problems faced by the child, the speech therapist may use a combination of various techniques. Some of the common autism speech therapy activities include:

  • Building concept skills
  • Learning gestural communication
  • Participating in a conversation or a back-and-forth exchange (joint attention)
  • Practicing how to say basic words, such as “good morning”
  • Training with picture exchange cards
  • Understanding when to use basic words and in front of whom
  • Using electronic talking devices

Speech therapy is widely accepted and established in the treatment for autism. However, it is important to consult a doctor before trying any form of therapy for autism.