Wednesday, March 21, 2012

You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth

Often times when talking to parents I get asked, “Why does my child need speech therapy? They can talk just fine.” So, why would a child who is very verbal still need the help of a speech pathologist? The problem lies far beyond the articulation issues. There are many other forms of communication that are not being used.

According to “Almost anyone diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder will be recommended for speech therapy. This may seem odd, as many autistic people are either non-verbal (at the lower end of the spectrum) or extremely verbal (at the upper end of the spectrum). But even very verbal people with Asperger's Syndrome are likely to misuse and misunderstand language on a regular basis. And even non-verbal people can certainly develop communication skills - and may even develop spoken language skills over time.”

At an early age speech may be just the thing to help your child become verbal. When Konner was diagnosed at three years old he didn’t speak much at all. In fact he had gone through the regression that usually comes with autism. This is when they speak, and then suddenly become non-verbal again. Since Konner is high-functioning we have been blessed that he now speaks very well. This is due to the fact that we have worked with several speech pathologists to obtain this goal. There are other parents that we know who have more advanced autistic children that are still waiting to hear their children speak again.

However, even though he is talking well there are some communication, social, and comprehensive issues that we are still working with.

Let’s look at what a speech pathologist can do. According to “Speech therapy involves much more than simply teaching a child to correctly pronounce words. In fact, a speech therapist working with an autistic child or adult may work on a wide range of skills including:

·         Non-verbal communication. This may include teaching gestural communication, or training with PECS (picture exchange cards), electronic talking devices, and other non-verbal communication tools.

·         Speech pragmatics. It's all well and good to know how to say "good morning." But it's just as important to know when, how and to whom you should say it.

·         Conversation skills. Knowing how to make statements is not the same thing as carrying on conversations. Speech therapists may work on back-and-forth exchange, sometimes known as "joint attention."

·         Concept skills. A person's ability to state abstract concepts doesn't always reflect their ability to understand them. Autistic people often have a tough time with ideas like "few," "justice," and "liberty." Speech therapists may work on building concept skills.”

There are a couple things that both of our speech therapists are working on with Konner that may seem strange to someone unfamiliar with their services. They are working to help him understand the who, what, when, where, why, and how questions. They are working in groups to help him with social interaction, especially in a classroom setting. This includes taking turns, working with others, asking for help, and other manner issues. As mentioned in previous articles Konner is having issues with opening doors. Both pathologists have been working to help with this problem as well.

In addition to working with the child, the pathologist works with teachers, parents, and paraprofessionals to help them understand what they need to do to help the child.

If you feel that your child may need these services you can ask the school to test, or find outside professional to get more testing.

Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column.

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