What is Speech Therapy?
Speech therapy is a type of treatment for speech and communication disorders that aims to improve comprehension, expression, sound production, and social use of language. Speech therapy can be practiced by a certified speech pathologist (sometimes called a therapist) in a private setting, a clinic, a school or an institution. They use a wide range of tools and interventions including the use of sign language and the use of picture symbols.
Why use Speech Therapy?
Speech therapy can address a wide range of communication problems for people with autism. Speech problems that a person with autism may have are: not being able to talk at all, using grunts, cries and shrieks, humming or talking in a musical way, babbling with word-like sounds, using robotic-like speech, often repeating what others say, using the right phrases and sentences but with a non-expressive tone of voice.
A person with autism may have trouble with conversational skills including eye contact and gestures, trouble understanding the meaning of words outside the context where they were learned. They may memorize things heard without knowing what’s been said, rely on parroting what others say as a main way to communicate, have little understanding of the meaning of words or lack creative language.
Almost anyone diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder will be recommended for speech therapy. This may seem odd, as many people with autism are either non-verbal (at the lower end of the spectrum) or extremely verbal (at the upper end of the spectrum). But even very verbal people with Asperger Syndrome are likely to misuse and misunderstand language on a regular basis. And even non-verbal people can certainly develop communication skills – and may even develop spoken language skills over time.
There are no reports of speech therapy being harmful.
What are the benefits of Speech Therapy?
Many scientific studies demonstrate that speech therapy is able to improve the communication skills of children with autism. This makes it possible for people with autism to improve their ability to form relationships and function in day-to-day life. Parents reported improvements in social play, confidence, and behavior at home and at school with speech therapy.The most successful approaches to speech therapy include components of early identification, family involvement, and individualized treatment.
Specific goals of speech therapy include helping the individual with autism to:
- Articulate words well
- Communicate both verbally and nonverbally
- Comprehend verbal and nonverbal communication, understanding others’ intentions in a range of settings
- Initiate communication without prompting from others
- Know the appropriate time and place to communicate something, for example, when to say “good morning”
- Develop conversational skills
- Exchange ideas
- Communicate in ways to develop relationships
- Enjoy communicating, playing, and interacting with peers
- Learn self-regulation
How Can I Find a Qualified Speech Therapist?
Because speech-language therapy is so well-established, it is very likely that your medical insurance will cover all or part of the cost. It’s also quite likely that your child’s school or early intervention provider will provide the service for free.