Better Speech 7 min read

How Speech Therapy Can Help Children With Autism

Parents of autistic children may wonder if their child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) will ever be able to speak fluently. The good news is that speech therapy can help autistic children learn to speak more clearly. There are many different speech pathology techniques to help your child. With online speech therapy from certified speech therapists, your child can learn to communicate effectively with others.

Topics in this article:

mother holding a little boy in her arms
  • Guidelines for screening your child
  • Signs that your child should be checked for autism spectrum disorder
  • How speech pathologists can help evaluate autism in children
  • How speech pathologists can help autistic children learn to speak more fluently

,“Interventions work best when they are early, when they are intense, and when they involve the family.” -Susan Hyman

When should your child be screened for autism spectrum disorder?

Guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), recommend screening for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at three specific times in the early age of your child:

  1. 9 months
  2. 18 months, and
  3. 24 months.

According to AAP, this autism-specific screening complements the recommended general developmental screening at 9, 18, and 30 months of age. As you are having your child evaluated, be sure to ask your medical professional about ASD.

Many of the diagnostic criteria for ASD are related to difficulties in social skills and communication. Therefore, Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) have a great deal of experience in treating children with ASD. Your Better Speech online speech therapist can provide an evaluation and a lot of helpful information to help diagnose ASD.

Signs that your young child should be checked for autism spectrum disorder.

Speech therapist can help identify autism signs

Below is a list of “typical” signs seen in infants/children with a diagnosis of ASD; however, these symptoms must not be viewed on their own but as a group of symptoms. In other words, some children who are not on the autism spectrum may exhibit some of these symptoms, and some children who are on the autism spectrum may not exhibit all of these symptoms.

6 months old

  • Baby is not smiling socially (i.e., doesn’t smile when interacting with people, does not smile when smiled at)
  • limited eye contact

9 months old

  • limited vocal use, absence of babbling and social smiles
  • limited join attention

12 months

  • limited nonverbal communication/gestures (e.g., pointing, waving, reaching to be held)
  • limited vocal use (words or babbling)
  • crying is erratic and not communicative in nature. For example, most normally developing infants will cry to communicate discomfort (hunger, wet/soiled diaper, cold, fatigue) or protest; however, the cries of a child with ASD are not easily interpreted by the caregiver and may be random and/or unpredictable
  • doesn’t respond to his/her name
  • doesn’t follow simple directions (e.g., “waving bye”, or “get the ball”)

18 months

  • no meaningful words
  • absence of symbolic play (e.g., does not pick up toy food and pretend to eat it, or “play house” with household objects)

24 months

  • verbal output is either absent or not functional/meaningful (e.g., may be limited to reciting alphabet, numbers or colors/shapes, repeats verbatim what is heard on TV shows)
  • not combining meaningful 2 word phrases (e.g., children with ASD may be able to verbally recite long songs, rhymes or frequently heard commercials, but be unable to spontaneously generate single words which are socially meaningful)
  • requesting is not verbal (e.g., may pull the caregiver by the hand to the desired object instead of verbally requesting it)
  • loss of previously acquired verbal output (e.g., may have used words or babbled sounds in the past which become “lost” and not heard again)

Possible signs of autism at any age

  • lack of eye contact
  • prefers to play alone
  • delayed speech and language milestones
  • repeats frequently heard phrases over and over (echolalia)
  • rigidity to routine and is easily upset if routine changes
  • interests may be unusual and/or limited
  • performs repetitive behaviors to seek stimulation (e.g., hand flapping, rocking, spinning)
  • sensory issues with loud sounds, bright lights, colors
  • limited tolerance for varied tastes, food textures or smells
  • non-symbolic play (e.g. spinning the wheels of a toy car repeatedly)
Speech therapy for kids and adult

How speech pathologists can help evaluate autism in children.

Many of the diagnostic criteria for ASD are related to difficulties in social skills and communication. Therefore, speech pathologists (SLPs) have a great deal of experience in treating children with ASD. As part of a team, an SLP from Better Speech can provide information that goes into a diagnosis of ASD, as a single evaluation appointment or as ongoing speech therapy for children with autism.

The AAP recommends intervention speech therapy as early as possible. Experts say early intervention therapy for autism produces the best outcome for children.

When a speech therapist evaluates or provides treatment to a young child or toddler at this age, they are able to monitor and very accurately report on many of the signs listed above. From how a child plays, to meeting speech or language developmental milestones, sensory issues and food preferences.

As part of a multi-disciplinary team, SLPs can help parents identify red flags and make suggestions for further evaluations. Because as Susan Hyman (one of the researchers on the study) stated, “Interventions work best when they are early, when they are intense, and when they involve the family.”

How speech pathologists can help autistic children learn to speak more fluently.

First, it’s important to have a good understanding about how children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) will learn and use language. The rate of development and learning for children with ASD will be different than their typically-developing friends. This generally can happen because during the time that typically-developing children are focusing on people and are learning from people in their lives, an atypical child will be more focused on things happening around them.

Your speech pathologist from Better Speech will work with you on activities you can do at home, as well as working with your child in organized sessions. ,Our program can be customized to your child’s specific needs. Together, we work with you, your family members and your child to create a complete therapy program for your child with ASD.

These activities may include:

  • Playing simple games that encourage speech
  • Modelling language, including speaking, gestures, and facial expressions
  • Teaching and singing songs together to help encourage speech and learn sentence cadence
  • Practicing essential language skills such as asking questions and greeting others
  • Rewarding your child appropriately when they use language or express themselves in another way

Children with autism spectrum disorder may need help learning how to:

  • Understand what others are saying
  • Use expressive language that includes a combination of words and gestures
  • Use both expressive and receptive language skills in ways that are socially appropriate

Why online speech therapy from Better Speech may be better for your child with autism spectrum disorder.

When we started our practice, our goal was to provide a more comfortable, convenient and cost-effective option for those who need speech pathology. This is especially important for children with autism spectrum disorder.

Online speech therapy from Better Speech is more comfortable. Most children respond better to speech therapy when they are in comfortable, familiar surroundings.

Online speech therapy from Better Speech is more affordable. Our clients tell us that compared to in-clinic sessions, we are less than half the cost. Our ongoing program bills you monthly for your sessions which can be arranged around your schedule.

Online speech therapy from Better Speech is more available. With our matching and availability, you can start almost immediately. It’s important, if you think your child may need evaluation, to get started as early as possible. The earlier you seek help for a child who may have apraxia and autism, the better. ASD is usually evident before children reach the age of three, and language delays can often be recognized even earlier – by the age of 18 months in many cases.

Speech therapy always has the potential to create an impact, but the earlier treatment begins, the sooner the child can begin to reap the benefits including reduced isolation, better communication skills, a stronger ability to form meaningful relationships with others, and greater ease in daily functioning as time passes.

In many cases, online speech therapy can have an incredible impact. Many techniques are easily adapted to online learning, and with help, children with autism can learn how to develop conversational skills, articulate their words, communicate verbally as well as non-verbally, and benefit in many other ways. Even the simple act of communicating with peers and playing with other children can become easier when online speech therapy is utilized.

You can get a free consultation with an SLP from Better Speech to talk with a pathologist and find out if your child should get an evaluation.