What is Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) or PDD?
Autism is a neurobiological disorder of development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behaviors. According to the Australian Advisory Board on Autism Spectrum Disorders, 62 out of 10,000 children are diagnosed with ASD (Wray & Willams, 2007).
Pervasive developmental disability (PDD) describes a group of severe, early developmental disorders characterized by delays in multiple areas of development, including social skills, cognition, and communication. A diagnosis of PDD indicates the presence of autism or a related neurobiological disorder (DSM-IV,2000).
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 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 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 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.