Children of all ages sometimes have difficulties expressing how they truly feel. For some, it is due to a lack of a fully functional vocabulary. For others, their difficulties correspond to their confidence in social settings. Other children embody both difficulties plus many other roadblocks on their way to communicating freely in all types of social settings. This last example relates to difficulties that individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) experience in their daily lives. Above and beyond these social communication difficulties, there are also those with ASD that are classified as nonverbal. These individuals are unable to communicate vocally with others unless they are assisted by a communication tool such as an app or AAC device. No matter where on the spectrum your child lies, speech therapy can help them become more adept at forming meaningful relationships with others. This article will look into ASD and how speech therapy can benefit them no matter if they are classified as nonverbal individuals.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Problems with speech and language are two of the defining characteristics of the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Individuals with ASD can have problems with any or all of these aspects involved in producing or understanding speech and language. Those individuals with ASD who are classified as nonverbal comprise 25-50% of the autistic community based on a 2013 survey. Most individuals with ASD that can converse verbally, are most likely to communicate in a style that some would consider to be robotic. Nonverbal autistic individuals, on the other hand, may only be able to express themselves via grunts, cries, shrieks, humming, etc. For these individuals, most solutions for vocalizing mental words are made possible via gestures (i.e. sign language) or typing via an assistive communication tool.
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Once ASD has been diagnosed in the individual, speech therapy is usually one of the first solutions that is recommended by doctors. Starting as young as possible with speech therapy for an autistic child is the best route to take to ensure that key developmental milestones are still able to be obtained. Speech therapists can synchronize the mechanics of a speech therapy program to address a wide range of communication problems. The speech therapist working with an individual with ASD will work closely with the individual’s family, school, and other professionals to define this program and monitor the person’s progress. The key focus of these speech therapy sessions is for the individual to form valuable relationships and function in day-to-day life. With enough practice and focus on building social and emotional communication skills in the right setting, individuals with nonverbal ASD can begin to communicate with others in a fashion that allows them to build key relationships in the future.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can pose communication difficulties, but when ASD is identified early and speech therapy is integrated into their daily routine, studies have shown that 2 out of 3 preschoolers with autism can improve their communication skills. The more speech therapy that is instilled into a nonverbal autistic individual, the more communication benefits are seen by parents, educators, and all those who converse with the individual.