Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder frequently diagnosed in children. When a child has autism, there will be deficits in their ability to communicate and socialize with others. Autism tends to be accompanied by many other symptoms and conditions though. For instance, patients with autism tend to have limitations in their speech and ability to vocalize.
It is for this reason that speech therapy is a very important consideration for children with autism. Not only is it able to positively impact their language skill, but in turn, benefit their general ability to communicate. This kind of therapy is performed by a speech therapist and uses multiple techniques to elicit improvement.
Speech and language therapy is essential for patients with autism. It will not only help them with forming their sentences but in their understanding and use of language.
This article will discuss ASD speech therapy for children with the condition. It will also discuss the components of the treatment of communication problems and speech disorders and their efficacy, amongst other aspects.
What is speech therapy for autism?
Not every patient with autism will benefit from taking medication. It should be considered on a case-by-Speech therapy, or speech-language therapy, is a means of treatment for language and speech deficits. It is utilized to help patients improve their skills in communication and vocalization. It is used in a variety of conditions. It is not limited to enabling clearer speech, such as is needed in patients with deficits such as stutters. It is also used for patients with developmental conditions like autism. In these cases, it is used to help them better understand how language is used socially.
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Who performs speech therapy techniques?
ASD speech therapy is carried out by a speech-language pathologist. Experts who hold this role have been certified and will have a master’s degree for it. However, while they may work privately, you can also find speech therapists working in schools, clinics, and other settings. This method can even be performed at home, alongside other home therapies for autism.
When searching for speech-language therapists in the USA, look out for those with CCC-SLP. This is a credential that means Certificate of Clinical Competence. It is obtained by being certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. In your country, a specialist may be licensed by a local organization. An expert with this credential will meet all the necessary professional standards.
What is the idea of speech-language therapy?
Patients with autism are often not able to communicate with others in a typical way. This can be due to their difficulty maintaining attention staying in a contact with another person. They also may not understand the social cues which arise during regular conversation. This affects how well they understand those to whom they are speaking.
Speech-language therapy aims to understand the root causes of language deficits. These include issues with articulation, or receptive language difficulties, such as in ASD. Once determined, each of these can be appropriately settled on and treated. This is what makes this kind of therapy very effective in the hands of a professional.
What does speech therapy involve?
Before a child can undergo speech therapy for autism, they need to be evaluated. The speech therapist will make an assessment of the current level of the patient’s speech. With this finalized, they can develop the milestones and goals for treatment. The treatment plan tackles different aspects of language with specific techniques. For instance, after an assessment, a therapist may realize play-based learning is best for a certain patient. In these cases, their treatment will be modelled using this.
In speech therapy for autism, many will need improvement in nonverbal communication. A professional may then seek to teach the child facial expressions. The aim will be to help the child better understand the meaning behind such expressions. Depending on the patient, there are so many techniques that can be used, depending on the goal.
In some cases, the therapist will determine alternate modes of communication are more beneficial. In these cases, they turn to Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC). This utilizes pictures, tablets, speech devices, and even sign language, to help.
Speech-language therapy can be performed in a solo setting or as a group. This typically depends on where it is being done, such as at school or at home.
How do speech therapists help autistic children?
An evaluation is done prior to prescribing medication for autism spectrum disorder. An evaluation is also
Speech therapists can be very vital in the management of children with autism. Speech and language therapy for autism opens an opportunity for these children. They can gain the potential to communicate normally with others. This is an essential skill for them to learn, especially in training them for adult life.
With language therapy for autism, they improve various aspects of speech for these children. These include the following:
- Physical properties of speech: A therapist can help a child best understand physical giveaways to tone, as well as physiological production of sounds.
- Conversation skills: The therapist promotes conversational exchanges. This helps autistic children learn how to maintain a conversation.
- Social skills: Children will learn proper social habits for conversation. This can include how to ask questions and maintain appropriate eye contact.
- Speech pragmatics: This is the concept of understanding when, where, and how things should be said.
- Understanding concepts: People with autism can find it hard to under abstract nouns. This includes concepts like peace, karma, and freedom, as examples.
Is speech therapy effective for autism?
When it comes to autism and speech-language therapy, there is evidence pointing to the efficacy. This particularly applies to autism spectrum disorder speech therapy in children.
One 2017 study was able to demonstrate effectiveness during solo sessions. This was performed on children with developmental disorders between the ages of 9 and 17 years old. It showed no predisposition for children of a certain gender, age, or language status. Improvements were seen in all cases.
A study performed over 6 months was similarly able to confirm the effectiveness of speech therapy. Improvements were recorded in vocabulary, sentence building, and non-verbal communication. Another was able to show improvement beyond just speech, but in behavior as well. This may indicate that effective communication can generally improve symptoms in autism.
Benefits of speech therapy
There are numerous benefits that this technique for autism provides. By improving autism speech development, patients can benefit in multiple ways. These include:
- Improves the chance of developing and maintaining personal relationships
- Allows a degree of independence
- Makes everyday social interactions more straightforward
- Boosts the understanding of non-verbal cues and body language
- Improves other aspects of therapy when communication is improved e.g. occupational therapy
Efficacy of speech-language therapy in autistic adults
Speech therapy has been used in adults for other conditions. When it comes to its use in adults with ASD, there is no formal evidence pointing to its efficacy. However, this does not state that this method for autistic adults is not effective. It is understandable, as most research done relating to autism focuses on children.
As speech therapy pertains to adults with intellectual disabilities, it has been shown to be very effective. This is regardless of the severity of their conditions.
Stem cells in the treatment of autism
Taking advantage of the benefits that speech therapy can bring for autistic children is a great idea. However, the optimal treatment of ASD targets it from multiple angles. This includes using the medication as appropriate, plus behavioral therapies. The use of stem cells provides a natural route of treatment that tackles the condition from the source.
Stem cell treatment repairs the damage in the central nervous system that results in ASD symptoms. A recent review shows that stem cell therapy has positive effects in autistic patients with cognitive and behavioral impairments. When this is paired with other treatments, the chance of success is improved.
However, it should always be kept in mind that stem cells are not a panacea. There is still no definitive cure for autism. The use of stem cells is beneficial for many patients, but will not be for all, and the degree of improvement varies greatly.
Book a free online consultation to find out if stem cells would work for your particular case, as well as what is the cost and duration of the therapy, and what it may include.
List of References
“Effectiveness of 1:1 speech and language therapy for older children with (developmental) language disorder.” Susan H. Ebbel, Lisa Wright, Sally Brockbank, Caroline Godfrey, Catherine Harris, Hannah Leniston, Kate Neary, Hilary Nicoll, Lucy Nicoll, Jackie Scott, Nataša Marić. Int J Lang Commun Disord. 2017 Jul;52(4):528-539. doi: 10.1111/1460-6984.12297.
“Effectiveness of Speech and Language therapy for Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Dr. Iffat Batool. Ayesha Ijaz. The Journal of Pakistan Psychiatric Society (JPPS). Jan-March 2015 Volume 12(1), Page No:14.
“The Efficacy of the Speech and Language Therapy for Autism Spectrum Disorders.” A. C. Tamanaha, J. Perissinoto, B. M. Chiari. Conference: International Meeting for Autism Research, May 2010.
“Effectiveness of speech therapy in adults with intellectual disabilities.” Terband, H, Coppens-Hofman, MC, Reffeltrath, M, Maassen, BAM. J Appl Res Intellect Disabil. 2018; 31: 236– 248. https://doi.org/10.1111/jar.12384.
“Stem Cell Therapy in the Treatment of Patients With Autism Spectrum Disorder: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.” Villarreal-Martínez, L., González-Martínez, G., Sáenz-Flores, M. et al. Stem Cell Rev and Rep. 18, 155–164 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12015-021-10257-0.
Medical Advisor, Swiss Medica doctor