Kids with autism may have major problems with both speech and nonverbal communication. Speech therapy can be an important part of any overall treatment plan for autism, as it can address a wide range of communication problems.
Children might not talk at all, or communicate with grunts or cries. They might hum or talk in a musical way, use baby-talk at an age when they shouldn’t, use robotic-like tone, or ‘parrot’ / repeat what another person says over and over (called echolalia), or they might use the right phrases and sentences, but with an unexpressive tone of voice.
About 1 out of 3 children impacted by ASD has trouble producing speech to communicate with others. For others, even if their language is present it may be too difficult to understand.
Other common communication challenges might include trouble with conversational skills (including eye contact & gestures), difficulty understanding the meaning of words, or they might have a general lack of language.
Because of these challenges, a child with autism must do more than learn how to speak. The child also has to learn how to use language to communicate, which includes the interpretations of facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language.
HOW’S IT WORK?
Here is a video of speech therapy in action with a young boy with autism, using a combination of ABA methods and speech therapy.
Speech therapists can determine the best ways to improve communication. The speech-language pathologist also works closely with the family and the school.
If someone with autism is nonverbal or has significant trouble with speech, the therapist may introduce alternatives to speech such as typing or signing, using picture boards, and more.
Some believe the negative behavior of nonverbal children is an expression of frustration due to not being able to express needs or desires with those around them.
GET IT COVERED
Speech therapy services may be covered by your private health insurance when it is pursuant to a treatment plan, if they are acting within the scope of a currently valid state issued license and have completed the required training. Contact your insurer to ask about coverage, coverage limits, and possible copays.
Speech therapy services are also offered at public schools. In order to request services, parents of children ages three or older should contact their public school district to request an evaluation for speech therapy services as part of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
WHATS DOES THE SCIENCE SAY?
Some speech therapy methods are more supported by research than others, but in general, speech therapy is felt to have a positive impact on many impacted by ASD, at virtually all levels of functioning.
Please note: This information was compiled by a parent volunteer from public sources, and is not intended to be medical or legal advice.