Speech Therapy for Children with Autism: Communication or Talk?

Speech Therapy for Children with Autism: Communication or Talk?

Language development and social interaction pose significant challenges for children on the autism spectrum, leading to the initiation of speech therapy interventions. However, it’s crucial to discern between ‘communication’ and ‘talking’ in the context of speech therapy for children with autism. While these terms may appear interchangeable, they carry distinct meanings and implications.

Communication encompasses a broad range of abilities to exchange information, express thoughts, and understand others, including verbal and nonverbal methods. However, talking is only the ability to produce sounds and words specifically in speech, i.e. talking alone does not define communication.

When it comes to prioritizing interventions for children with autism, the focus should be on fostering communication skills rather than solely on speech. The ultimate goal is to facilitate interaction and effective communication, as the ability to understand others and express thoughts and needs is vital for social interaction and daily functioning.

Given the paramount importance of pragmatic communication, speech therapy for children with autism should prioritize nonverbal interactions. This approach enlightens and informs, aiming for the following developmental milestones. 

  1. regulating oneself to the environment
  2. engaging and relating to others
  3. two-way communication using not only words but gestures and sounds to express needs, wants, and thoughts
  4. recognize and express emotions and construct meaningful phrases and sentences
  5. pragmatic language skills (e.g., talking out of turn, understanding social cues, adapting language to social context).

In addition, because each child with autism is unique, speech therapy should be tailored to the child’s specific needs, strengths, and communication goals. It should focus on what will bring out the child’s communication skills most effectively in the everyday settings where they are most comfortable and ensure that they are able to communicate with others, express themselves, and understand the world around them.

Talk is important. But simply knowing the words without communication skills is like the Webster’s English Dictionary that we no longer look at. Don’t rush to teach them word for word, but rather have tons of conversations with eye gaze and facial expressions. Before long, your adorable autistic child will observe the world, look at your facial expressions, and express himself.

Subscribe DR-TOMATO newsletter