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Does Speech Therapy Help Children with Autism?

Learn if speech therapy helps children with autism from pediatrician and child development expert Asma J. Sadiq, M.D. in this Howcast video.


Does a child with autism spectrum disorder benefit from speech therapy? Well, most children have some speech or language issue because that is one of the core symptoms that is described in the diagnostic criteria for having autism. And the kind of speech therapy will vary depending on whether it's just a simple speech and language delay or difficulty with actual pronunciation or what they call "verbal apraxia" and kids need some particular kind of oral motor or prompting of verbal therapy, as well as just speech therapy.

And speech therapy is important both at an individual level because you need individual speech and language therapy for the child to develop direct skills and communication; learning language, sentence construction, vocabulary, etc., etc., but you also need speech therapy in a group setting because you need language to communicate. So speech therapy should be provided individually, but also in a group setting because picking up on the back and forth of conversation, to be able to introduce yourself, and be not able to interrupt or ask questions, this whole social piece of group speech therapy is very important and I think it definitely has a place for children.

With autism, all children who get the diagnosis or autism do get a speech and language evaluation, even for children with Asperger's who don't have a classic speech delay, but have difficulty with pragmatics, which means using language to communicate will benefit from speech therapy, but a particular kind of speech therapy and that is to help them with communication and verbal pragmatics.

Group therapy in using speech is very important and people are actually suing all kinds of modalities where they're using puppets and play therapy to engage with also developing speech and language. Speech therapy can be done is a structured form in school, also provided privately, and we are doing speech therapy all the time as we engage with our children.

So engage with them, develop eye contact, make them verbalize versus just pointing. Use every opportunity for them to learn to use language and to communicate because it's important for them to be able to communicate their needs and use language for that purpose and also to be able to respond back to you. So maintaining eye contact, using language, not just verbal but even non-verbal, and I think that needs to be included in with speech therapy.

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