Learn How Speech-Language Pathologists Help Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders


Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often face difficulties in talking and expressing emotions. This makes social interaction much harder. For these reasons, speech therapy has become an essential component of the treatment process for ASD, as it addresses a wide range of speech and communication problems among children with ASD.

In this blog, we will explore various speech and language problems children with ASD face and how speech-language pathologists help.

Speech problems: ASD can affect children’s speech, language development, and social communication in the following ways:

  • They do not talk at all

  • They tend to murmur words, which makes it difficult for others to understand what they’re trying to say

  • They choose to talk in a musical way. For example, humming

  • Though they sometimes use the right phrases and sentences, they do it in an impassive tone

  • They repeat what others are trying to say, etc.

It has been observed that about one out of three people with autism has trouble producing speech sounds to effectively communicate with others.

Communication problems: Children with ASD struggle with learning conversational skills. Below are a few communication challenges they face:

  • They can’t seem to make eye contact

  • They have trouble grasping new words and their meaning

  • They have limited knowledge of various words and symbols

  • They find it hard to memorize things, and so on

Along with teaching children how to learn and speak, it is also important to teach them how to adequately overcome speech and language challenges. Once the child learns how to communicate, she should be taught how to engage in conversations, understand the meaning of verbal and nonverbal cues from others, and be primed on various other communication related aspects.

How does a speech-language pathologist help children with autism spectrum disorder?

Typically, the assistance of a speech-language pathologist is enlisted in order to help children develop speech-related skills such as, being able to articulate better, speaking up when they need something, and so on. But, speech-language pathologists do more than this! They target focus in helping your child improve social communication skills by helping them put words together and learn how to communicate their ideas verbally and nonverbally.

  • Helping children use the most appropriate means of alternative communication: First, speech-language therapy pathologists gauge the mode of communication in which nonverbal/verbal children are most comfortable learning. While some children may understand better with gestures, others may learn better with visual supports. The speech-language pathologist works on matching each of these approaches to the child’s proficiency and challenges.

  • Along with the use of language, speech-language pathologists also help in understanding language: Children with ASD need help in understanding how to use language in order to initiate a conversation. They might face problems in understanding words that have multiple meanings. For example, “I left my phone” and “Take a left.” They also find it difficult to understand idioms. For example, “A penny for your thoughts” or “The ball is in your court.” etc. may sound confusing.

Focus on improving social communication:

Social communication is the most challenging area for children on the autism spectrum. They need help recognizing various verbal and nonverbal cues of others. Recognizing this, speech-language pathologists focus in helping children adapt to language and nonverbal/nonverbal cues, such as shaking hands, using facial expressions, and hugging, that they can use in a social setting or while communicating with others. By focusing on improving communication, speech-language services ease challenging behaviors children face and helps improve academic and workplace success.

Speech-language pathologists are the first to spot early warning signs of ASD:

Speech and language delay is one of the earliest development concerns seen in children. Hence, children who might be on the spectrum and who are yet to be diagnosed are first taken to a speech-language pathologist. Keeping this in mind, speech-language pathologists continually monitor your child’s development. They examine various skills in children, such as, their ability to interact in a play, checking if they wait for their turn to talk, their ability to maintain eye contact while communicating with others, etc. This helps speech-language pathologists in detecting early warning signs of ASD in children, which leads to early intervention.

For more information regarding sensory therapy, cognitive skills, behavioral therapy, developmental disorders, and early intervention, please contact Stepping Stones Center. We emphasize acquiring new and appropriate behaviors, while also working on helping the child achieve developmentally age-appropriate milestones through evidence-based practices.

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