Individuals who fall under the autism spectrum have the tendency to become non-verbal because of issues related to speech. This makes it even harder for them to communicate their thoughts and needs to other people which may complicate into more health and social issues if not addressed the soonest possible time and through the most effective method. If you’re a parent of an autistic kid, it would be ideal that you register your child for a speech therapy program as early as possible.

Autistic persons with speech difficulty have varying degrees of problems related to speaking. There are those who can only utter a single word or two in a specific situation where they meant more than what they said. If they say “watch”, it could mean that they want to view a TV program or movie but you can’t figure out what specific channel or movie title they would want to watch. There are also non-verbal autistic persons who can speak a complete phrase or sentence, but will likewise fail in communicating what they really want to say because they only reproduce articulations that they heard from media channels and the people around them to use as a calming tool when they get agitated. There are also those who can’t speak any word but are able to communicate well through other means like writing or typing, sign languages, and other visual materials. This being said, speech therapy programs are designed to address different speech challenges manifested by autistic individuals. A speech therapist does not only limit the effectiveness of their program into one type of non-verbal autism case alone, knowing the fact that even highly verbal autistic persons also need speech therapy sessions to fully understand the use of language in communication.

Speech therapy is commonly misinterpreted as training for people on how to correctly pronounce words and minimize stuttering, which is plainly undervaluing its scope of work. While these procedures can indeed be found in many speech therapy programs, such training only touches a portion of the whole concept of speech therapy. Because it is a wide-ranging field of expertise, speech therapists are required to earn a master’s degree before they can finally start their practice. They employ a variety of tools and strategies according to the individual’s needs. For sessions that involve autistic individuals, a speech therapist’s areas of work include:

  • Improving Nonverbal Skills – This training focuses on mastering non-verbal communication tools such as social gestures or body language, facial expressions, the use of picture exchange cards (PECS), and electronic devices that facilitate communication.
  • Improving Conversation Skills – Things like starting a conversation and sustaining it, are likewise thought in a typical speech therapy program. The therapist and participant will simulate a real-life conversation and maintain a back-and-forth exchange of statements.
  • Improving Conceptual Skills – It is very common to find an autistic person as very practical or straightforward. They usually find abstract concepts such as “success”, “freedom” and “equality” hard as tough topics to talk about. A speech therapists will also train the autistic participant to develop conceptual skills and improve the extent of their conversational effectiveness.
  • Building Speech Pragmatics – As a fundamental aspect of speech, pragmatics emphasizes the need to understand context in conversation. Things such as observing speaking turns, decoding the meaning of the spoken words in a given context, and identifying implications of such words that are not explicitly given, are just some of the main focus in speech pragmatics training. This will help autistic individuals correctly analyze ambiguous statements and respond properly to such conversations.
  • Improving Social Skills – Even very articulate autistic persons, like those with high function autism or diagnosed with Asperger’s, find it hard to engage in social conversations due to the fear that they might appear awkward in front of other people because they cannot easily detect the dominant mood, or correctly make questions, or deliver answers. With the help of a speech therapist, the autistic person will be taught the ways to read the atmosphere of the conversation, and the proper positioning of oneself relative to the distance of the people they are talking to.

How to Avail Speech Therapy

Finding a speech therapy program in your area will not be that hard due to the fact that it is a very sought-after service in many countries. You can check your child’s school district if they offer this kind of service, or any intervention service provider in your area. To make your search more convenient and accurate, you can try consulting your child’s pediatrician or doctor and ask for referrals. These referrals will most likely lead you to private medical practitioners and clinics which are quite more expensive. However, the advantage in opting for such services is that these people are highly specialized in certain fields, and can cover many other autism-related issues that most school programs and intervention service providers do not cover.

It is also highly likely that your child’s school district or a public intervention service provider will provide the whole therapy program for free which is ideal for parents that are not financially flexible. For those who would opt for private services, they can check their health insurance coverage and see if it covers such treatment service which is also very likely that it would, in most cases.

Going into speech therapy may be stressful for your part, but you must also think the same for your child. Both of you will have to allocate a portion of your time for the speech sessions, and while you observe the whole activity and monitor your child’s progress, the latter is also trying their best in applying what they have learned through the whole process. Many speech therapists who are effective for non-verbal cases may not deliver the same results in dealing with verbal autistic participants, or vice versa. That is why it is vital that you find the appropriate kind of speech therapist for your child in order to not put all of your time, effort and money to waste.