It can be difficult as a parent to ensure your autistic child develops the skills they need to communicate and be social.
If your child has been diagnosed with autism, it can significantly affect their ability to speak and share ideas.
Some autistic children aren’t able to speak at all.
But just because they aren’t speaking doesn’t mean that they can’t communicate and socialize through other means.
A speech therapist can help your autistic child work around their limitations and teach them the skills and tools to develop their ability to communicate more effectively.
Talk to a Washington DC speech therapist here at Voz today to give your nonverbal autistic child the skills and tools to communicate more effectively.
Let’s take a closer look at what nonverbal autism is and how a speech therapist can help.
What Is Nonverbal Autism?
Autism is known as a spectrum for a reason – signs can vary widely from person to person.
This is true with speech symptoms as well.
In some cases, not at all – some autistic people don’t have any issues with communication.
On the other extreme, however, some autistic people aren’t able to speak at all.
This is known as nonverbal autism.
While this isn’t an actual diagnosis, it is used to specify those who are autistic and cannot speak.
But if your autistic child is nonverbal, they may still be able to use words through other methods, like writing.
With new therapies and technology, autistic people who are nonverbal can learn to communicate through other means.
Some autistic people who are nonverbal may still be able to use some specific words to relay their needs or wants, but can’t carry sustained conversations.
Similarly, some may be able to speak or copy speech but are unable to construct it into meaningful language.
Signs Your Child May Be Nonverbally Autistic
Autism is a developmental disorder that is often accompanied with difficulties in social communication and interaction.
There are a wide array of signs and symptoms that may indicate your child is autistic.
Some categories to look out for include social, behavioral, and developmental difficulties and limitations.
But what should you look out for to determine if their autism is nonverbal?
One of the main symptoms is that your child isn’t able to speak clearly and without interruptions.
Those who are considered to be nonverbally autistic generally don’t speak at all.
There are several factors that can limit their ability to speak.
This includes things like:
Intervention with speech therapy may help your child communicate more effectively, whether verbally or through other methods.
What Causes Nonverbal Autism?
There are several factors that can contribute to the development of autism.
Things like parental age, prenatal exposure, genetic mutations and disorders, premature birth, and chemical and metabolic imbalances can play a role in the development of autism.
It’s uncertain why some autistic people aren’t able to, or don’t, use spoken language.
Especially because some nonverbal autistic people can still communicate by using AAC systems, including digital tools, ASL, and picture cards.
One cause that can affect some people is childhood apraxia of speech.
This condition is a neurological disorder that can make speaking more difficult.
Most nonverbal autistic people don’t have apraxia of speech, however.
It’s important to note that nonverbal autistic children aren’t necessarily intellectually disabled either.
Nonverbal autism could also be a result of underdeveloped verbal communication skills.
Echolalia, a condition that causes people to repeat noises and phrases, may also affect meaningful verbal communication.
How Can A Speech Therapist For Nonverbal Autism Help?
If your child has been diagnosed with autism and is nonverbal, there are therapies and strategies to help them learn to engage and socialize with others.
Despite any disabilities or limitations, they can still find ways to communicate and be more independent.
Speech therapy focuses on developing communication and language skills.
If it’s possible, your child’s speech therapist can also try to help build up their speech skills.
Intervening as early as possible can help give your child the best chance for future success.
Let’s take a closer look at how a therapist can help children with nonverbal autism.
1. Finding Out If They’re Able To Speak
There are autistic children who have delayed speech but eventually develop the ability to use spoken language.
The first step is to evaluate whether your autistic nonverbal child has the potential to use spoken language.
Can they say a few words or make sounds to indicate a need or want?
In this case, implementing different approaches can help them get to a point where they can communicate more effectively.
Your child’s speech therapist can help encourage this.
While speech is the primary option, there can still be uncertainty if they will be able to speak soon or ever.
If speech isn’t a viable option, there are many other alternatives to communicate.
2. Deciding On An ACC Solution
Augmentative and alternative communication, or ACC, are methods used to communicate without the ability to speak.
There are several options to use and implement into your child’s therapy.
ACC can be used with modern technology to assist your child in expressing themselves.
Devices like a single button voice output device have one button that reads out a prerecorded message when it’s pushed.
Multi button voice output devices have several buttons to choose from that all have different meanings and messages.
There are also dynamic display voice output devices that present many buttons and options on a touch screen.
Once one button is pushed, it leads to another series of buttons that allow your child to express more complex ideas.
Some nonverbal children may still have the ability to write or type words and phrases on paper or on a digital device.
Aside from devices, ACC can also include the use of gestures and body language to express ideas and emotions.
Sign language is another option that can allow your child to speak using their hands to form signs.
RELATED: Understanding American Sign Language
In this situation both you and your child can communicate with each other using sign language.
Other options include using objects to represent desires.
This is ideal for children who have cognitive or visual impairments.
You can also use picture boards or picture exchange communication systems (PECS) in which your child uses images to express themselves.
When you’ve discovered what methods work best, understand and use them as often as possible to get your child comfortable.
With extended use your child can learn new ways to communicate using an ACC method.
3. Teaching Other Skills
Improving your child’s imitation skills can help them get into a habit of associating gestures or body movements with desires.
Reinforce the activities and objects they prefer.
By working imitation skills into daily life, it can allow your child to work on their fine motor skills, communication, and playtime activities.
Another skill that may be beneficial is teaching your child how to take turns and request something.
Using ACC methods your child can let you know when it’s their turn to do something or have an item.
Withholding that item for a short time can get them to inform you that it’s their turn on their own.
There are many games and activities you can use to reinforce imitation and turn taking skills.
These skills can further help your child develop communication and social skills.
Book Your Appointment With Voz Speech Therapy Today
If your autistic child is nonverbal, there are numerous strategies and therapy options that can help them better communicate.
At Voz Speech Therapy we offer pediatric speech and language therapy services.
We’ll work with your child to teach them new skills and develop methods to communicate more clearly.
1331 H St NW Ste 200,
Washington, DC 20005
Voz Speech Therapy is a pediatric bilingual speech therapy clinic in Washington, DC that provides individualized services based on the specific needs of your or your child. Therapy sessions are provided in English or Spanish, depending on your child’s native language. Voz Speech Therapy es una clínica pediátrica bilingüe de terapia del habla en Washington, DC que brinda servicios individualizados según las necesidades específicas de usted o su hijo. Las sesiones de terapia se brindan en inglés o español, según el idioma nativo de su hijo.