How can speech therapy help people with autism?

People with autism usually have delays in communication. The most obvious is when they are nonverbal. Yet people who are verbal may also have serious difficulties.

Some individuals can repeat words but can’t use language in a meaningful way which is called echolalia. A speech pathologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of language problems and speech disorders can help a person learn how to effectively communicate.

Speech therapists look for a system of communication that will work for an individual with autism and may consider alternatives to the spoken word such as signing, typing, or a picture board with words.

Source: Center for Autism & Related Disabilities (CARD)

William Stillman
Health Education Specialist

Speech therapy can prove beneficial (often when combined with occupational therapy and/or music therapy) to aid the child with autism to articulate spoken language, or access a modality (as complex as computer technology or as low-tech as "yes" and "no" cards) as an alternative to speech.

As with any therapy, more "formal" therapy is not necessarily better; and the true intent of therapy is for the therapist to impart to the family the best techniques to replicate every day throughout typical routines. Thus, the "therapy" becomes invisible, not something that requires scheduling or creates a disruption. 

Speech therapy that involves reading/reciting, singing (sing-a-longs or "round-robin" singing), and game-playing with siblings, cousins or neighborhood children fosters an incentive for the child with autism to put forth greater effort to try—and it's fun too!

As much as 50-percent of people with autism are not neurologically "wired" for speech. You'll need to carefully consult with any speech therapist regarding desired outcomes and approximate timelines for such before (or concurrently) pursuing other viable alternatives to speech.

Continue Learning about Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Treatments

Is it ever too late to try a new diet with a child with autism?
Chantal Sicile-KiraChantal Sicile-Kira
It is never too late to try a diet. The challenge you may face is that older children and teenagers ...
More Answers
What is positive behavior support?
Dr. Charles J. Sophy, MDDr. Charles J. Sophy, MD
Positive Behavior Support includes a range of intervention strategies that are designed to prevent t...
More Answers
Dr. Ronald Leaf - What medical specialists can help treat autism?
Dr. Ronald Leaf - What medical specialists can help treat autism?
Are There Any New Treatments for Autism?
Are There Any New Treatments for Autism?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.