Speech and Language Therapy
Children on the autism spectrum often have difficulty understanding the communication of others and communicating effectively with them. In fact a child on the autism spectrum may not see any reason to communicate with other people. This may delay their language acquisition and lead to frustration when they cannot make their needs understood. If they find play and social situations difficult and so avoid them, they also have fewer opportunities to learn language.
Children on the autism spectrum often have communication problems more complex than straightforward speech and language difficulties. Characteristically they can find it hard to interpret social behaviour and imagine another individual's state of mind. Reluctance to interact with the world may be evident in the way they fail to make eye contact, use hand gestures, or understand body language.
A delay in spoken language may be the most obvious indication that something is wrong, and the speech and language therapist (SALT) may be one of the first professionals to meet the child. It is vital, however, that the assessment of the child should take into account all aspects of communication and social functioning, not just speech and language. The assessment should be part of a co-ordinated multi-disciplinary assessment which considers how aspects of the assessment relate to and influence one another. Specialists in speech and language are, therefore, key professionals when it comes to assessment and intervention.
Some children on the autism spectrum have limited or even no speech, and their understanding of other's speech may vary enormously. In such cases therapists may focus on getting the child to communicate using visual methods such as signing, symbols and picture systems. They may spend time helping the child develop listening and attention skills; play and social skills; social understanding; understanding of language and expressive language.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, some children have good vocabularies and can talk on particular topics in great depth. Some, but not many, have problems with pronunciation. Many have difficulty using language effectively, and many also have problems with word and sentence meaning, intonation, and rhythm or say things that have no content or information.
The best results are found in children who receives all the three therapies hand in hand (ABA, OT and SALT). Again, early years’ intervention and assessment is important in order to plan and tailor the program accordingly to every child's specific needs.