Recognizing the Value of Virtual Speech Therapy for Children and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Each April, organizations globally recognize Autism Awareness Month to increase awareness and acceptance of autism. This event reminds us of the importance in educating ourselves about those individuals born with neurodivergence – the term used to describe people whose brain differences affect how their brain works and is typically used in reference to autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Learning about ASD helps us become better advocates for these individuals in our community and provides them with crucial support.
Great Speech virtual speech therapy offers a supportive and understanding opportunity for individuals and families to seek assistance from a licensed therapist with training and experience in addressing the communication barriers associated with ASD.
According to the National Institutes of Health, ASD is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges. The term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills and levels of impairment that people with ASD can have.
ASD affects people in different ways and can range from mild to severe. People with ASD can share some symptoms such as difficulties with social interaction, but there are differences in when the symptoms start, their severity, the number of symptoms and whether other challenges are present.
The behavioral signs of ASD often appear early in development with many children showing symptoms by 12-18 months of age or earlier. ASD affects people of every race, ethnic group, and socioeconomic background. It is four times more common among boys than girls. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 1 in every 54 children in the U.S. has been identified as having ASD.
ASD Impacts Ability to Communicate
Children with ASD are often limited in their ability to successfully communicate and interact with others. They may have difficulty developing language skills, understanding what others say to them and communicating nonverbally, such as through hand gestures, eye contact, and facial expressions. There is wide variation in a child’s ability to communicate, largely dependent upon intellectual and social development skills.
Some children with ASD have rich vocabularies and are able to talk about specific subjects in great detail. However, some children may not understand the meaning and rhythm of words and sentences or appreciate body language and the intent of different vocal tones. Collectively, these issues impact socialization and interaction with others, especially people their own age.
Language Patterns Among Children with ASD
Guidance from the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders points to these issues:
- Repetitive or rigid language. Often, children with ASD who can speak will say things that have no meaning or that do not relate to the conversations they are having with others. For example, a child may count from one to five repeatedly amid a conversation that is not related to numbers. Or a child may continuously repeat words he or she has heard—a condition called echolalia.
- Narrow interests and exceptional abilities. Some children may be able to deliver an in-depth monologue about a topic that holds their interest, even though they may not be able to carry on a two-way conversation about the same topic.
- Uneven language development. Many children with ASD develop some speech and language skills, but not to a normal level of ability, and their progress is usually uneven.
- Poor nonverbal conversation skills. Children with ASD are often unable to use gestures—such as pointing to an object—to give meaning to their speech. Without meaningful gestures or other nonverbal skills to enhance their oral language skills, many children with ASD become frustrated in their attempts to express their feelings, thoughts or needs.
Speech Therapy Can Help!
A speech-language pathologist (SLP) will perform a comprehensive evaluation of the child’s ability to communicate and will design an appropriate treatment program. Improved communication skills are essential for helping children with ASD to reach their full potential.
The optimal treatment program should be tailored to the child’s age and interests and address both their behavior and communication skills. Regular reinforcement of positive actions and communication training teaches basic speech and language skills, such as single words and phrases. Advanced training emphasizes the way language can serve a purpose, such as learning to hold a conversation with another person, which includes staying on topic and taking turns speaking.
Speech therapists will often draw on a variety of techniques, including:
- Oral and Physical Motor Exercises, which can address difficulties related to physical control and coordination when communicating
- Sign Language, Gestures and Alternative Augmented Communication (AAC) devices, which provide a new communication form when verbal communication is limited
- Cognitive-Communication Therapy, which focuses on strengthening neuropathways in the brain
- Social Skill Development, which teaches individuals with ASD how to engage with others and improve their interactions with the world around them.
Speech therapy helps to build a child’s confidence and improve overall development and interpersonal relationships which may have been diminished by poor communications skills.
Insurance Coverage for Great Speech
Thanks to expanded insurance coverage for Great Speech virtual speech therapy services, more children with ASD and their parents can access the services of our licensed SLPs in the comfort of their own homes. Many people may already be using virtual care for primary care, urgent care, behavioral health or other services, and can now take advantage of this convenient option to access virtual speech therapy services for exceptional children with ASD — whenever needed.
Great Speech is proud to partner with the following insurance plans:
BCBSIL Medicare & commercial
Cigna Medicare Advantage
Healthnet, a Centene company
Optum / NAMM California
United Healthcare Florida
Coming Soon: Humana Medicare FL, Molina Medicare & Commercial FL, Devoted Medicare FL, CarePlus Medicare FL, Avmed Medicare FL, MMM of Florida Medicare FL., Wellcare GA, Amerigroup NJ. Great Speech accepts HSA/FSA & private pay clients.