MY CHILD HAS AUTISM, DOES HE NEED SPEECH THERAPY?
A Brief Introduction
An estimated 50,000 individuals are diagnosed with autism in Singapore with over 200 new cases each year 1. Yet, for parents, carers, families, and teachers involved in caring for a person with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), finding relevant and useful information can be a challenge. This is despite the wealth of information provided by national organizations such as the Autism Association Singapore 2.
One of the reasons for this is that there is a myriad of terms and diagnoses available (Asperger’s syndrome, social communication disorder, pragmatic disorder, just to name a few). All of these have their own subtle but distinct variations, symptoms, and treatments.
This article aims to provide parents with an overview to help children who have recently received a diagnosis of ASD.
How Is Autism Linked To Speech And Language In Children?
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder which encompasses a wide spectrum of abilities. Children often struggle with 3 areas: communication (verbal and non-verbal), social interaction, and behavior. Each child with autism has their unique challenges and strengths.
Children with mild autism or Asperger’s syndrome may be able to talk in detail and with few or no issues in pronunciation, particularly when discussing subjects they are interested in. However, they may have difficulties maintaining a topic, engage in persistent self-talk, or speak out of context. They may repeat expressions or questions (“echolalia”) or use a robotic, monotonous tone.
The difficulties experienced by children with ASD are not confined to expressive language. Children with ASD often struggle with social-emotional interactions (e.g. making and keeping friends, building relationships), understanding the language that uses abstract concepts (such as time). The underlying meaning and rhythm of sentences and words can result in difficulties with comprehension, particularly the use of vocal tone (“Yes!”, “Yes?”, “Yes ☹ ).
Speech Therapy For A Child With Autism
With such a wide range of symptoms and experiences on the Autism Disorder Spectrum, an important first step for a speech and language pathologist is to conduct an initial assessment.
Following an assessment, treatment approaches may include, but are not limited to, enhancing language abilities, as well as perspective taking and social thinking ® skills. Speech and Language Pathologists (SLPs) help with one of the biggest challenges experienced by individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders – social communication and social-emotional learning. For instance, helping children to use language meaningfully to interact with friends, initiating and sustaining a topic conversation, or recounting a narrative. SLPs can help patients to express their feelings and thoughts, as well as likes and dislikes. In turn, these skills help to form and build friendships, strengthen relationships, and increase self-esteem and assertiveness.
Speech Therapy For A Child With Autism: Takeaway Points
The most important point to take away for children diagnosed with ASD (and caregivers supporting them) is that help for speech and communication is available. Evidence-based strategies developed can greatly improve both the relationships and self-confidence of these individuals.
- Prevalence of Autism in Singapore [Infographic]. (2016, January 13). Retrieved from http://www.autism.org.sg/living-with-autism/prevalence-of-autism-in-singapore
- Autism Association Singapore [Web Page]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.autismlinks.org.sg/
- Autism Spectrum Disorder: Communication Problems in Children [Web Page]. (2017, March 6) retrieved from https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/autism-spectrum-disorder-communication-problems-children
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