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Can A Child With Autism Learn To Talk

Learning your child is diagnosed with autism may be a difficult pill to swallow. You might find relief learning that many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) go on to live very fulfilling and independent lives.

A clinical evaluation to diagnose autism spectrum disorder is not to be taken lightly, but it’s important to remember that experts have been studying how to improve development for children with ASD for decades.

When it comes to helping your child with autism learn to talk, it’s important to find an expert you trust, that your child is comfortable with, and that has the patience and experience to help your child expand their speech skills.

What is autism? 

Autism spectrum disorder is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as a “complex developmental condition that involves persistent challenges in social interaction, speech, and nonverbal communication, and restricted/repetitive behaviors”.

It’s important to remember that even if your child is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, their symptoms and capabilities can not only range, but also change over time.

Does autism cause speech delay?

No, autism spectrum disorder does not cause speech delay. It is important to differentiate that while speech delay is common in children with autism, they are also common in children that do not have autism.

Typical children will respond to social cues and reinforcement that fosters organic language development. Through positive affirmation, normally a child will develop language over time through exclamations — try “yay!”, “woohoo!”, or “good job!”. If these cues don’t produce a response from your child, this may be indicative of barriers to social communication that are common in children with ASD.

Many people with ASD have normal intelligence, while many others experience mild or severe intellectual delays, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

At what age should you worry about a child not talking? 

If your child hasn’t begun to talk, or perhaps regressed in speech comprehension or articulation, it is important to notify your pediatrician. You may be concerned, but it’s important not to jump to any conclusions about a speech or language delay. 

If you haven’t received a clinical diagnosis for your child, you may be asking yourself, “is it normal for my one-year-old to not be talking?” While most babies can speak at least a few words by their first birthday, many healthy toddlers may not start speaking until their 18-month milestone. 

A general range for when most children say their first word is somewhere between 10 to 14 months.

For specific situations when a parent should be concerned about their child’s language development, please check out our post on 1 Year Old Speech Milestones. 

If you feel as though your child’s speech development is behind, it is important to share your concerns with your child’s pediatrician to discuss and evaluate their language development.

If you’re wondering “what age do autistic children talk?”, it’s tough to say exactly. Because autism spectrum disorder varies in severity with each child, there is no hard and fast rule. 

It is not uncommon for children with ASD to begin developing speech in the same manner as typical children, as well as to regress in speech and language comprehension around two years old. Children with ASD may have difficulty connecting the meaning of words with other similar words, as well as communicating with adults or other children.

Other than speech delay, there are a number of other factors that may indicate a child should be evaluated for a developmental disorder. Affected children may have difficulty using and understanding non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, and body language. Generally, social interactions do not come easily for children with ASD.

What should you not say to a child with autism?

There are a number of inappropriate things you should never say to a parent or child with autism spectrum disorder:

  • “But you don’t look like you have autism!”
  • “I’m sorry you have autism”
  • “Don’t worry, everyone’s a little autistic”
  • “I have social issues too, maybe I have autism”
  • “Autism is just an excuse to ignore people or behave rudely”
  • “You don’t care about anyone but yourself”
  • “So, are you really good with computers?”
  • “Wait a minute, I met someone with autism, and they aren’t like you”

What are some things you should say to a child with autism?

If your child has ASD, some friends, family, or even colleagues may find it difficult to know what is appropriate to say to them or how they can talk to you about your child’s unique needs. Here are a few recommendations to share:

  • “Do you need help with anything?”
  • “Oh, that explains a lot about why they walk back and forth, or sometimes don’t feel like talking”
  • “Can you explain what autism is to me?”
  • “I’m here if you want to talk”
  • “How about you join us for lunch?”

Is autism hereditary or genetic?

It is not uncommon for ASD to occur more than once in families, but research is not yet conclusive on inheritance patterns. Children with genes associated with ASD may inherit increased risk of developing the condition, rather than actually receiving an ASD diagnosis. 

There is no such thing as an autism gene; however, there has been significant research to indicate that certain rare chromosomal abnormalities may increase the likelihood of a baby developing autism. However, possessing the gene does not mean a child will be diagnosed with ASD.

If your child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, you may find yourself wondering, “does autism come from the mother or father?”. Both parents can carry gene mutations that result in their child being diagnosed with ASD.

Boys are nearly 5X as likely to be diagnosed with ASD. Research indicates that girls may be resistant to certain genetic mutations that contribute to autism and disproportionately impact boys.

How we can help your child with autism learn to talk

At Great Speech, we work with a variety of children and adults, all of which receive individualized instruction unique to their own challenges with speech. 

Autism spectrum disorder is a complex diagnosis and no two children with ASD are exactly the same, so we recommend scheduling your introductory phone call to learn how we can implement a plan to help your child speak clearly and confidently.

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1 Year Old Speech Milestones

Have you and your partner been chatting endlessly with your toddler, waiting for them to elicit a reply of any kind? You’re not picky, you’d settle to hear even a “mama!”, “dada?”, or “dog”! 1 year old speech milestones can vary, and you’re not alone in being at least a little concerned.

There are a number of commonly asked questions we receive regularly regarding early child language development and what 1 year old speech milestones you should look for as a new parent.

What are some 1 year old speech milestones?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), language and communication recommendations for 1 year old speech milestones include:

  • Making sounds with changes in tone (that sound closer to speech)
  • Saying “mama”, “dada”, and exclamations such as “uh-oh!”
  • Trying to say words after you say them

Some additional markers to look for include:

  • Recognizing his/her own name
  • Babbling, or putting together sounds that don’t make clear sense
  • Laughter
  • Understands and enjoys playing games such as peek-a-boo
  • Uses noises to garner attention, including cooing, shouting, and squealing

The CDC and American Association of Pediatrics recommend that while each child is different, if your child isn’t saying single words such as “mama” or “dada” at 1 year old, you consider speaking with your child’s doctor about a developmental screening.

A speech language pathologist can perform a developmental screening to determine any speech delays and provide a course of action on how to work through them.

When should I worry about toddler language?

It’s important not to stress or jump to any conclusions about a speech or language delay in children. 

You might be asking yourself…is it normal for 1 year old to not be talking?

While most babies can speak at least one or two words when they turn 1 year old, it is not out of the ordinary for a healthy, normal toddler to not say a discernible world until their 18 month milestone. 

How about sign language? It’s not uncommon for children to opt for simple signs before forming full words.

A general range for when most children say their first word is somewhere between 10 to 14 months.

There are a number of scenarios where a new parent may worry and ultimately be genuinely concerned about toddler language development:

  • Not understanding simple words, such as “no” or “bye-bye”, at 15 months of age
  • Not using real words by two years of age
  • Not able to put two words together into phrases (for example, “more milk”) by two years of age

When these instances occur, it is important to share your concerns with your child’s pediatrician to discuss and evaluate their language development.

What should I know about language development 1-2 years?

In the 12 to 17 month period, your child will respond to simple questions, even with nonverbal cues to answer. They might nod their head or gesture when hearing simple directions. They may begin to say a few short words or imitate simple words from you or your spouse, and their vocabulary is generally fewer than four to six words.

Once your child reaches 18 to 24 months, their vocabulary expands into new forms of communication. Toddlers will start using two-word phrases, making animal sounds, and requesting common foods by name.

How many words should a 1 and a half year old say?

At 18 months of age, your child may have accumulated a vocabulary of at least 10 and perhaps as many as 50 new words. Their pronunciation may not be clear, but they are accumulating a new base of words and phrases.

At this point, it is common for your child to recognize and be able to point to some parts of the body when you name them.

How common are late talkers?

Late talking is not an uncommon phenomenon. When it comes to early childhood development, approximately one in every 9 or 10 children experiences late talking.

A significant number of children grow up as late-talkers and eventually go on to be productive, intelligent, and bright.

Does late talking mean my child has autism?

This question is a common one among those concerned with their child’s development and aware of autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Children’s speech expert and author, Dr. Stephen Camarata, put it eloquently in The MIT Press Reader: “Although all autistic children are late talkers, not all late-talking children are autistic”.

In his own child’s early development, Camarata questioned the methodologies of the psychologist who evaluated his son and diagnosed him with mental retardation (now ‘intellectual disability’). Through firsthand experience, he implores parents to ask questions, probe, and find authentic answers. 

Intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder both come with a variety of severe symptoms — they are not limited to late talking.

Can a child with speech delays catch up?

It’s important to remember that for some toddlers, late talking may be a clinical symptom of developmental speech delays. That being said, it may also be a stage that, over time, your child will simply grow out of.

Consider receiving a clinical evaluation to determine how significant your child’s speech delays may be, and working with a speech language pathologist over time to address their individual needs.

Are late talkers less intelligent? 

You might be asking yourself this question, especially after receiving unsolicited advice from family or friends about why your child may not be communicating as others normally would.

The answer is…not at all! Many brilliant individuals began talking late, the most famous among them being Albert Einstein. The certified genius allegedly didn’t begin speaking in full sentences until reaching the age of 5! Nevertheless, he was far and beyond ahead of the curve when it came to other developmental milestones. 

Dr. Camarata and American economist Thomas Sowell came to discover a new term, Einstein Syndrome, in order to describe children who overcame early speech delays to become exceptionally gifted, highly analytical thinkers. Both experts have advocated for children that were late talkers, taken to clinical specialists, and misdiagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

Personalized Assessment

Your child deserves the very best guidance in assisting them with their speech development.

Curious how we can help? We offer a thorough introductory call, so you’ll know what to expect when it comes to working with our trained experts in speech and pronunciation. 

We’re here to help your child surpass their 1 year old speech milestones and develop strong, confident language skills. Get started with an introductory call to discuss how a licensed speech and language pathologist can help you achieve your goals.

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9 Ways We Can Help With Your Child’s Vocabulary Development

You wouldn’t be a good parent if you didn’t worry about your kids. But when are you right to have concerns about development?

Language learning is a huge task to master for any child. If you’re concerned about your child’s speech or vocabulary development, check out these tips.

Here are nine ways Great Speech can help.

1. Practice Reading

The more a child reads, the more they get exposed to new words that we don’t use in everyday speech. There are also opportunities to stop and explain words.

Whether we are doing reading exercises during your online speech therapy session or you are reading to your child at home, your child can ask questions. Explaining what words they’ve never heard mean can help improve reading comprehension and develop vocabulary.

2. Talk To Your Child

It can be tedious to converse with a small child all day long. Sometimes it’s even frustrating for only a few minutes because a child isn’t as mature in their social skills as adults. You can get bored fast, or ignore them.

Talking to a child helps them learn new vocabulary. We can converse with your child during their online therapy session and teach them new words like you can at home.

If they are asking you the same question over and over, try asking them a question to redirect the conversation. Toddlers and kids have short attention spans (which we know and can work with during their session). Make the most of their time by switching directions to cut your frustration and keep them talking.

3. Give Simple Definitions

If you use big words to define other big words, a child won’t understand what you’re saying. To give a good explanation, use small words to give simple definitions. We do the same thing when we conduct online therapy sessions.

Help a child remember a word’s definitions using words they already know. For example, if you are defining the word “minuscule,” it’s enough to say that it means “something really, really small.”

As their vocabulary develops, they’ll know more and more words you can use (and we can, during a session) to define new words.

4. Give Basic Examples

When a child hears a definition of a new word, it can help them to hear an example, too. Give a basic example that they will understand, something from their life that makes sense. This is what Great Speech can do during an online therapy session, too.

For the word “minuscule,” try explaining that when they eat a Teddy Graham, it’s minuscule compared to a whole graham cracker. We come up with basic examples that kids can understand to help them develop their vocabulary.

5. Be Clear

Children can get confused when you use a word that sounds the same as another word. To you the words are different, but a child who can’t read yet won’t understand.

To help a child understand what you mean, tell them which thing you mean. For example, if you say, “nail,” explain that you mean the kind of metal nail you hit with a hammer, not a fingernail.

This is the type of differentiation we can do with your child during an online therapy session, too. Confirming which word we mean helps vocabulary development.

6. Say It Several Times

A child needs to hear a new word 4-12 times before it gets added to their vocabulary. Pay attention to how often you use a new word with them. Make sure not to expect them to know it right away.

During an online speech therapy session with Great Speech, we can help explain words many times. We have patience with your children, and we introduce words several times to help with vocabulary development.

7. Let the Child Lead Vocabulary Development

The old maxim of pulling teeth is still the best visual sometimes. Making a child do something they don’t want to do isn’t worth the trouble.

Let the child direct the vocabulary development. Whatever they’re interested in will help them stay engaged. Use words that are part of their varying interests, rather than new words they don’t care about.

We do the same thing with online therapy sessions. We can explore your child’s interests and spend time talking with them and building vocabulary centered around their hobbies.

8. Let the Child Respond

Whether it’s coming up with their own example or asking a question, children need time to respond. Learning involves digesting new information, not only receiving it. After you explain something it’s a good idea to wait a beat or two for the child to catch up.

They may come up with their own example after you give one. They may ask a question to clarify or help them understand. Be open to their speed of comprehension when you’re talking about new words.

We can work in a similar way during the exercises of an online therapy session at Great Speech. Part of developing vocabulary is ensuring a good grasp of the new word.

9. Don’t Move Too Fast

Like Goldilocks in the story of the three bears, your child must find the level of growth that is “just right” for them. Too many new vocabulary words at a time can overwhelm and discourage them. Make sure you aren’t trying to move too fast when introducing new ideas.

We can track your child’s progress and gauge whether they are ready to move on with online therapy sessions. We can also adjust based on their needs. Helping a child learn new vocabulary means moving at the right speed for them.

Long-Lasting Improvement

Being a concerned parent is hard. There is so much to worry about, and vocabulary development is only one on a long list.

From doing exercises with clear, basic definitions and examples to moving at the right speed, online speech therapy sessions with Great Speech can help. Your child will build a treasure trove of new words and you’ll be speechless at their growth.

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The Role of Speech in Children's Social Emotional Health and Development

The Role of Speech in Children’s Social Emotional Health and Development

From the moment a child is born, they are continually maturing and developing. Perhaps one of the most critical developments for a child is within their social-emotional health. Speech plays an essential role in this development.

People love communicating, which is why it is one of the most essential skills for an individual to develop. When it comes to children’s social-emotional development, some just need time. Others need early intervention, though, and can benefit from speech therapy.

Speech in Children’s Social-Emotional Health and Development

The development of speech and self-expression skills is absolutely vital in the development of a child’s social-emotional health. Taking place in early childhood, the development of communication skills allows a child to form a basic understanding of the world. It will enable them to adequately and efficiently express their feelings and ideas.

Regardless of your age, emotions are a complex concept. In order to help navigate and express feelings, proper speech development is essential. When a child’s speech development is underdeveloped, this can severely limit their capacity to both processes and express their emotions.

Speech is also important for academic success. Besides the obvious connection of writing and verbal communication with learning, there are also other factors speech plays in academics. Mainly, children are keen observers of their environment and peers.

It is this observation that makes them well aware of any differences between them and their classmates. If a child’s speech development is behind or differs from the other children, this can negatively impact their emotions and confidence in school, lowering academic performance.

For some of these children, they can also become frustrated and anxious among their peers. Unfortunately, some kids may tease or reject those with speech issues. This can potentially have a severely negative impact on a child’s social-emotional health.

Isolation can also occur as, for a coping mechanism, children can use it to avoid these types of uncomfortable situations.

Identifying Speech Issues

Identifying speech issues can allow parents to take proper steps for intervention. Though it may be challenging to identify a speech issue in young children, you can do it when you know some of the common signs and symptoms.

Between the age of six and eighteen months, children should be interacting with other people, understanding the meaning behind some basic words, and beginning to speak. They should be using gestures to communicate by the 12-month mark and turning into full word vocalizations as a primary communication tool by 18 months. Delay or the lack of these milestones can signify a speech issue or another condition.

As children age, issues with their speech and communication skills may present as isolation from others, hindering their social-emotional health. Symptoms of this include children that are easily frustrated, extreme shyness, and emotional outbursts.

Even there are no apparent symptoms of delayed speech or social-emotional health, it is imperative to keep an eye out for speech that is behind that of their peers.

Identifying Properly Developed Speech

How can you tell if your child is appropriately developing their speech and social-emotional health? First, children who are meeting these milestones tend to be happier, listen and follow directions from others, and show interest in other people.

They can also correctly interact with their peers. Not only can they express their emotions, but children with properly developed speech and social-emotional health are more likely to participate in group activities. They can also play and compromise with their peers.

Speech Therapy

If you feel that your child’s speech development is delayed or is negatively impacting their social-emotional health, speech therapy can help. This is especially true if there are facing constant issues with speech-related issues with little or no progress. Just remember that there is an acceptable range of development, so comparing your child to their peers may not always be the best way to identify an issue.

However, talking to your child’s teacher or doctor will give you a better idea if there is a real developmental issue and if speech therapy may help. They have received specific training to identify speech and development issues and can help you get the help your child needs.

When locating a speech-language pathologist (SLP), you will want to make sure that the therapist and program will fit both the needs of the child and parent. Speak with your pediatrician, friends, family, and other parents for local therapists. The best speech therapists will be knowledgeable and can work with both parent and child easily and comfortably.

Before beginning therapy, an SLP will thoroughly evaluate and diagnose the potential source of the child’s speech delay. Whether it is a structural issue with the mouth or tongue, hearing issues, oral-motor impairment, or other issues, an SLP will tailor the therapy to the child’s needs.

Depending on the age of the child, therapy and intervention styles can vary. For younger children, treatment is stylized around play, group reading, and other group activities. As children grow, speech therapy is sometimes offered in a school setting. SLPs can also recommend the appropriate home practice, which may remove pressure from the child.

The length and frequency of speech therapy can vary based on the child’s age and needs. Usually, treatment lasts anywhere between eight months to one year.

The Role of Speech in Children’s Social-Emotional Health and Development

Speech therapy and early recognition of speech issues can help positively influence a child’s social-emotional health. Give your child the best start for their development and growth by watching out for the symptoms and signs of delayed speech development and taking the appropriate action.

If you’re still looking for the right speech therapy program for your child, contact us today so we can discuss the different solutions we offer.


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