If you have a child who has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, you may be both surprised at this diagnosis and overwhelmed with what it might mean.
On the other hand if you as an adult have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, it may be a moment that feels like a great discovery. If you always felt different and confused by certain social interactions, an autism diagnosis can help you to finally make sense of it all.
Autism spectrum disorder can manifest in many different ways, and not all autistic people will require speech therapy.
But sometimes they do.
Here at Voz Speech Therapy in Washington DC, one of the speech therapy specialties we offer is treatment for autism spectrum disorder.
Read on below to find out more about how autism spectrum disorder works, how it can affect your child’s speech, and how speech therapy for children with autism can help.
What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism spectrum disorder is a difference in neurology that affects the way the brain develops and learns.
You may have heard of autism before, but the phrase autism spectrum disorder might be new to you. That’s because there has been a change in how we classify these disorders.
In the past, a number of different disorders were considered to be separate from each other. These include:
- Autistic disorder
- Asperger’s syndrome
- Pervasive developmental disorder
- Rett’s disorder
- Childhood disintegrative disorder
- Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)
Further research, however, has discovered that each of these disorders are related, which is why the modern diagnosis is autism spectrum disorder.
Autism spectrum disorder has a wide range of different symptoms, and the vast majority of autistic people don’t have all of them.
However, they fall into two different categories: repetitive behaviors, and social and communication issues.
Repetition and routine are often very important to autistic people. As a result, autistic people will often display:
Repetitive speech patterns
Hyper focus on their interests
Hyper focus on the activities they’re doing
These can include things like fidgeting, certain body movements, repeating certain sounds or phrases, or an intense focus on a daily routine.
Autistic people also often have a unique relationship with sensory stimulus.
In some cases, they are hypersensitive to it, being stressed out by loud sounds or bright flashing lights.
In other cases, however, they might be under sensitive to these things, or even gravitate toward them.
Autistic people tend to socialize differently than allistic folks (“allistic” being the term used to refer to people who are not autistic).
As a result, they may sometimes have difficulty communicating with other people and making their ideas known, as well as with understanding the more subtle nuances of communication. These symptoms may include:
Reluctance to maintain eye contact
Difficulty understanding and expressing their emotions
Difficulty making their needs known
Difficulty forming new relationships
Difficulty maintaining existing relationships
In some cases, this may manifest itself in having a hard time sharing the interests they have with others. In others, however, it may manifest itself in oversharing their interests, and having trouble noticing whether their conversational partner is interested.
As you may have noticed, many of the above signs of autism are easier to notice in people of a toddler age and older.
However, if you have a new baby, there are signs of autism in them you can recognize as well. These include:
Lack of gesturing or pointing
Lack of eye contact
Lack of facial expression
Not recognizing their own name
Difficulty following commands
Difficulty communicating wants and needs
Recognizing these early signs is important, since early intervention speech therapy for autism spectrum disorder can help your child to develop their speech most effectively and avoid speech issues associated with autism.
If your baby is showing some of these signs, it’s a good idea to see a speech therapist for autism screening to be sure.
Why Speech Therapy For Autism Spectrum Disorder?
In some cases, autistic people have no issue with speech or language. They may have difficulty recognizing the social cues of allistic people, but that’s less an issue of speech and language than it is a difference in social skills.
However, in some cases, autistic people may have speech and language issues. These issues may include:
- Not speaking at all
- Not being able to form words
- Creating sounds that seemed like words but aren’t
- Only being able to scream or grunt to communicate
- Having a monotone voice
- Only imitating what others say
- Memorizing word sounds but not understanding what they mean
- Not understanding how words change meaning in different contexts
In these cases, a speech therapist can help autistic individuals communicate their wants and needs.
Speech Therapy For Autistic Children
If you suspect your child has autism spectrum disorder, we can help. We start with an assessment of your child, including an autism screening.
If your child has already been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, we’ll forego the autism screening, but it’s still a good idea to assess your child’s abilities.
Either way, once your speech therapist has a good idea of which symptoms of autism spectrum disorder are most affecting your child’s communicative skills, they will put together a plan to help improve your child’s speech and language skills.
Each autistic child is unique, and as a result there is no one size fits all approach to speech therapy for autism spectrum disorder in children. However, some of the approaches your speech therapist may take include:
- Learning emotional regulation skills
- Learning to recognize non-verbal conversational cues
- Learning a functional way to begin conversation
- Learning a functional way to interject
- Learning how to communicate in words, sentences, and conversationally
- Learning how to follow multi-step commands
- Learning how to form new relationships
- Learning how to foster existing relationships
- Improving their articulation skills
- Making use of AAC systems in case of nonverbal autism
Speech Therapy For Autistic Children With Other Speech & Language Disorders
Research has shown that a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder can often come with other speech and language disorders.
Here are some of the more common ones we can help with.
Childhood apraxia of speech is a speech disorder where your brain has trouble communicating with the muscles that control your speech.
Broadly speaking, those with childhood apraxia of speech know exactly what they want to say, and their muscles work just fine. But there’s a disconnect between them and their brain, which results in motor planning issues.
Autistic children are more likely to have childhood apraxia of speech. In fact, the co morbidity rate is higher than 60%. As a result, if we have a diagnosis of one, it’s a good idea to test for the other.
We have a unique protocol for speech therapy treatments for apraxia of speech when working with an autistic child. We take their unique communication style into consideration.
If your child is showing signs of childhood apraxia of speech and autism overlap, we can help.
It’s very common for autistic children to also need speech therapy for expressive & receptive language disorders.
For example, autistic children frequently have issues with pragmatic language. This includes things like adapting their language depending on who they’re talking to, like staying on topic, changing the topic, and engaging in conversational turns.
They may also have issues with expressive language, which involves expressing ideas and information through language. This can include speech, but it may also include writing and gesturing.
Finally, they may struggle with receptive language, where they have difficulty understanding what others are trying to communicate with them.
Here At Voz Speech Therapy, we have experience in speech therapy interventions for all of the above.
Book Your Appointment With Voz Speech Therapy Today
Your child receiving a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder can be overwhelming, but in the vast majority of cases autistic people today can live full and fulfilling lives.
And here at Voz Speech Therapy, we celebrate these neuro-diverse individuals and help them reach their full potential.
Book your appointment today to find out how.