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Is Speech Therapy only for Autism?

Autism speech therapy

Speech and language impairment is one of the defining characteristics of Autism

It’s a question that often bothers speech therapists and parents alike. It’s not just that Speech Therapy applies only to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder; it is equally effective for typically developing children if you want them to improve on their respective communication skills. Trying a few specific speech therapy exercises can come to immense help. However, in this guide, we would be primarily focused on Autism Speech Therapy strategies and techniques that parents and educators and easily deploy.

Autism, as we know of it, affects languages in very significant, and more than one ways. It makes the proper use of language – functionally and socially – pretty challenging. The intensity of impairment in language and speech delays often varies from child to child. To counter the problem, some of the best speech therapy specialists came up with a few ideas that worked around several areas of communication.

Top 21 Autism Speech Therapy Strategies for Children

Consider several factors before you pick the right autism speech therapy strategy for a child. Several considerations come into play here, not just the child’s age, personal interest, developmental levels or the learning style. But, these are nevertheless vital aspects to be considered. It’s better to go by age, unless the child’s functioning levels require picking activities aimed at older kids or the younger.

Early Childhood

Many times, autism is first detected in early childhood, when language skills develop. It is essential in such cases that the child is introduced to intensive autism speech therapy. This will help him/her build meaningful interactions. Let’s see some of the ways it can be done.

  • Non-verbal children respond better to animal noises rather than human words. Children with autism often have an affinity for animals, which sometimes develops into intense emotional connections. Use toy barns and animal trains.
  • In functional communication‘more’ is an important word. Make use of any of the favourite activity of the child; it will greatly encourage the child to try it out. Start the activity and stop after a couple of moments, to make the child ask for more. For example, if the child loves to swing, allow him/her for a short span and stop. You must wait till the child asks for more of it (through hand or other bodily gestures). Say the word ‘more’ along with.
  • A favorite toy or food item of the child can be used. Keep it out of the child’s reach but within his or her view, to make the child gesture for and obtain it. The next step in this communication level will be the child leading the adult by hand towards the item or making a verbal request.
  • Routine, to autistic children, is very important. Building conversational routines will help to encourage using the language. You can do it by placing the child at the top of a slide. Resist sliding down when you say – “Get setready …” and wait for the child to say “Go!” Once he/she says so, reward by letting the child go.
  • A very early sign of autism is a child not responding to their names. It’s essential to sort it out to develop further communication skills. Whenever the child responds to his/her name, the reward must come big.

Preschool Speech Therapy Ideas for Autism

Preschool sees first the importance of social use of language. Children, here, play parallel or play together and to any child with communication barriers, this can be a lot of challenge. A lot of the kids on the spectrum have these barriers. But preschoolers on the spectrum benefitted when some of these ideas were tried.

  • Participate in plays. Take turn every now and then. If it’s tennis, encourage the child to say “my turn” every time he or she has to serve. To encourage further, you can play memory games. Taking turns in a game like this helps a child to prepare for taking turns in conversations.
  • Phrases and strategies can be taught and devised to interact with peers. Shared activities are highly fruitful in teaching communications. Playing with blocks, using the sensory table or playing Eye Spy – all these improve a child’s sense of conversational perspectives. Role-playing games too. Preschoolers enjoy that when a game is devised with age-appropriate language skills. Playing house or restaurant or grocery store; playing the role of a doctor, or veterinarian is also very enticing to the kids in the spectrum. Making a child familiar with such routines and teaching a language to go with it will make him/her more successful with the peers.
  • Shared attention skills with games like “I Spy.” To do this, stare at something obvious, and have the child guess what you’re looking at. This will help the child with.

Elementary School Speech Therapy Ideas for Autism

Demands from the elementary school are hard for kids on the spectrum to cope with. These children may require negotiating complicated social interactions without using language. To peers, this communication difference may become more apparent. But some strategies work well with younger children. For best results, there should be more than one child participating in the social communication exercise. Let them work from a script and remember the rewards.

  • Label the feelings: Cartoon drawings and/or stories help children identify the feelings of a character. This is helpful in suggesting appropriate language-based responses for that feeling.
  • Teach children to ask questions. Hiding a toy or an object in a bag and then asking the child to ask what is in the bag is a good way to start. Expand the exercise by introducing various social questions, especially those a child can ask a peer.
  • Teach them a bit of body language. To do that, create a non-verbal communication mode. Work on body posture with the child. Turning away, crossing arms, facial expressions – all should come into the script. There should be a list made of interactions a child may actually encounter; providing strategies will make the child succeed.
  • Children on the spectrum mostly express intense interests on specific objects. Music, animals, automobiles, motorcycles, guns and gadgetries – all come under it. These can be used initially for keeping a child engaged in interactions for lengthy periods of time. Questions and answers, non-verbal communication, turn-taking and many other important concepts can be put through this strategy.

Middle School and High School Speech Therapy Ideas for Autism

Social pressures intensify further in middle and high school and therapy approach should now focus on non-verbal peer interactions. The adolescent now learns the life skills that are needed post-school.

  • Socialize the adolescent; take him/her out into the community. Make the child observe the social interactions occurring around. Let the child participate after he/she has understood and assessed the situation properly. For instance, if in a restaurant, make the child watch others placing lunch orders, talk about the way interactions are occurring and then let the child place the order under guidance.
  • Teach the child how to respond when among unpredictable people or while interacting with strangers. Active listening and labeling feelings, as described above, shall help a child to negotiate in these situations. Avoid Sensory overload.
  • Maintaining etiquette with the opposite gender is a challenge for autistic kids. Understand the differences between Autism in girls vs Autism in boys. Both language skills and respecting boundaries need to be taught. Use the Circle of Relationships to help your child better understand relationship boundaries. Generate awareness on the Autism relationship challenges that adults and adolescents with Autism often face.
  • Follow these guidelines for Autism in the Classroom to better handle difficult behavior. Make the adolescent practice job interview skills. These will come handy for part-time or summer jobs during high school.
  • Conflict resolution is tough at first for anyone on the spectrum. Videos, visual aids and interactions help a child to break down the interaction and participate productively and assertively.

Making a difference

speech therapy for Autism

Autism Speech therapy brings a dramatic difference in the life of a child on the spectrum. It creates the essential building blocks of a successful social life. If your child’s school doesn’t offer one, you can go for an independent speech-therapy session through clinics, hospitals and private trainers.


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