How does speech therapy work?

Autism can impact speech, language development, and social communication in a variety of ways. Speech and language therapy can address a wide range of communication difficulties for people with autism. In general, SLT is designed to coordinate the mechanics of speech with the meaning and social use of language, with the goal of helping an individual communicate in more useful and functional ways.

What to Expect

What to Expect
Treatment approaches and goals are created based on an individual’s verbal aptitudes and challenges. As a treatment for autism, goals for SLT may include improving aspects of spoken language, learning nonverbal communication skills such as signs or gestures, and/or introducing augmentative-alternative communication (AAC) tools.

When working with a child on the spectrum, a speech-language pathologist can help address goals such as: learning to articulate words clearly, improving verbal and nonverbal communication, comprehending verbal and nonverbal communication, understanding others’ intentions, spontaneous communication (i.e. initiating communication without requiring prompting from others), understanding the appropriate time and place to communicate (example: when to say “good morning,” adjusting voice volume appropriately, etc), developing conversational skills, learning to exchange ideas, learning self-regulation, and communicating in ways to develop relationships with others. Speech-language pathologist aim to help children with autism find enjoyment in communicating, playing, and interacting with their peers.

The Earlier, The Better

As with intensive behavioral therapies and occupational therapy, the earlier speech-language therapy is started, the better. Indeed, speech-language pathologist can often be a vital resource in early detection and referrals for comprehensive autism assessments. Early intervention with speech-language therapy can improve a child’s ability to communicate and reduce the isolation that can come with autism. With early intervention, two out of three preschoolers with autism will improve communication skills and their grasp of spoken language. Young children that receive more speech therapy typically see greater improvements. Many intensive behavioral intervention programs also include speech-language therapy elements.