How Speech Therapy Works to Treat Various Autism Spectrum Disorders
For parents, the difficulties presented when a child has a lifelong disability can lead to considerable stress and strain. This is particularly true when there is no cure for the condition such as autism.
What is Autism?
Autism is a disability that affects how a person communicates with others and relates to the world around them. There is no singular condition that unites those with autism, but in general terms it is a condition where some cannot use the power of speech while others can talk fluently, but have difficulty grasping the nuances of conversation. So, the effects of autism can be light to severe with no two cases quite alike.
Autism affects about 1 in 68 children in the US. While there is no cure, there are methods such as speech therapy that can be used to help autistic children better communicate with the world around them.
How Speech Therapy Can Help
Speech language therapy can help considerably in terms of helping a child understand the nuances of communication. Depending on the level of autism present, the therapies can help children to better coordinate the mechanics of speaking to the meaning that they want to get across. Everything starts with an evaluation to determine the level of autism and assesses the challenges that is present.
From this point, the pathologist will set the appropriate goals and schedule sessions so that the child can work to reach them. Overall, the purpose of the therapies is to help them better communicate with the outside world in practical ways. The therapy generally consists of one-on-one sessions or can be in the classroom depending on the treatment that is required.
Alternative and Augmented Communication: Those who do not speak will be trained to use alternative methods of communication. This may include the use of hands, gestures, or signs that help relate what they want or provide information so that those on the outside can understand what they are communicating. One popular program is the use of tablets which contain various symbols that they can point to communicate what they want.
For those who can speak, the goal is to help them master what they say so that their message can come across clearly. In both cases, the goal is to improve the overall communication skills whether they can speak or not so that people on the outside can understand the message a person with autism is trying to deliver.
The first steps are associative, so that a symbol and its real-life example are used such as a picture of a banana and an actual banana. Once the association is made, the following steps include expanding that knowledge so that their overall vocabulary is improved. There are other therapies as well which include;
- Occupational Therapy: Addresses cognitive, motor, and physical skills so that a child becomes a more productive adult.
- Physical Therapy: Improves motor skills which in turn improves the child’s performance.
- Sensory Integration Therapy: Helps children integrate the different information that comes through their senses. This is often a part of occupational therapy.
The therapies come together in helping those with autism understand and communicate better through the improvement of their skills and understanding.