What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (also referred to as ASD) is defined as a developmental disability that causes challenges related to behavior, and social and communication skills. ASD is considered to be a spectrum because autism can present a wide range of symptoms and skills and the degree to which people with ASD are affected.
People with ASD can be affected in a wide variety of ways and with varying degrees of severity, ranging from mild to severe. Those with autism may share some symptoms, such as challenges related to social interactions. There are many differences among people with ASD, such as when the onset of symptoms begins, the number of symptoms, and whether other developmental problems might also be present. The severity of and the symptoms themselves can change over time as well.
The behavioral symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder typically emerge early in the child’s development. In most cases, symptoms start to appear between 12 and 18 months of age. You can learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorder and how to help strengthen communication skills by scheduling your free introductory call today!
How Does Autism Affect Speech?
The term autism originates from the Greek word for self, “autos.” People with ASD often appear to be very self-involved or that they exist in their own personal world in which they struggle with the ability to communicate and successfully interact with others. Difficulties developing language skills and comprehending what others are saying to them are also common. ASD also affects one ability to communicate nonverbally, such as through the use of eye contact, facial expressions, and eye contact.
The abilities that children with autism possess to communicate and employ the use of language can depend on their social and intellectual development. Some children affected by ASD may have very limited speaking skills, and others may not be able to communicate using speech or language at all. There are also many people with autism who have rich vocabularies and speak about certain topics with great enthusiasm and detail. It is common for people with ASD to have difficulties with the rhythm and meaning of words and sentences. Many people affected by autism may also struggle with understanding body language and interpreting various vocal tones. When these challenges are combined, children and adults with ASD can face significant struggles interacting with others, especially their peers.
Can a Nonverbal Child with Autism Learn to Speak?
Whether a child with autism with delayed speech will eventually gain the ability to communicate through spoken language depends on the severity of the symptoms as well as the support, intervention, and education that has been provided to the child.
When evaluating whether a child is likely to gain the ability to speak, it is important to distinguish whether the child is nonverbal (they don’t communicate with spoken language at all,) preverbal (meaning the child has not yet developed verbal language skills) or non-communicative (this means that the child doesn’t have any verbal or nonverbal communication abilities.)
Approximately 40% of children with autism spectrum disorder do not communicate using spoken language. Research has shown that around 70% of children with autism who are nonverbal will gain the ability to speak using simple sentences as they grow and develop.
It is impossible to predict with any certainty whether a nonverbal child with autism will eventually be able to speak, but the right support and help from caregivers, educators, healthcare professionals, and an experienced speech-language pathologist can go a long way toward helping a nonverbal child with autism develop spoken language skills. Any development in language skills, no matter how small, is a positive gain for the child, as well as for those who care for and interact with them. Learn more about how you can support someone who is struggling to communicate because of autism by scheduling your free introductory call today!
How do you Teach a Nonverbal Child with Autism to Talk? How do you Talk to a Nonverbal Child with Autism?
There is a wide variety of techniques and therapies that may be helpful when trying to encourage a nonverbal child with autism to communicate. It is important to take the time to evaluate and consider each approach and how it is affecting the child, and whether or not it is effective. Just as each person with autism exists on a spectrum, the treatment, and support that will be helpful for each person can vary significantly. When it comes to supporting someone who is nonverbal due to autism, there is no one size fits all.
Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
First developed in 1985, the Picture Exchange Communication System (also referred to as PECS) is a widely used alternative and augmentative communication system. This system enables those who have difficulty communicating with spoken language to use pictures to convey their message. They may be taught to point to a picture or to hand the picture of what they want to someone who can help them. This system is highly effective in a classroom or therapy environment, as well as at home.
Sign language can be a great option for someone who is nonverbal due to autism. Not only for people who are hearing impaired, but sign language is also an effective and rich way for many people to communicate. One of the biggest advantages of sign language is that it doesn’t require the use of any additional devices or equipment. That being said, sign language might not be the best choice for someone with significant fine motor challenges.
Augmentative and Assistive Communication (AAC) Devices
Augmentative and Assistive Communication (AAC) devices are some of the most effective modes of communication for children with autism who are nonverbal. This device is usually a tablet or a smartphone that can be taken everywhere and used as needed. Typically these devices have word cards on them, that when touched on or pushed, the person who is using it can create a message that they wish to be conveyed. Some devices have been specifically designed for this function, but there are also AAC apps that are available to download onto a device that is already at hand.
How Can Speech Therapy Help a Child with Autism Learn to Talk?
Speech-language therapy is a highly important part of helping a child or adult with autism learn to communicate effectively. An experienced SLP will work with the individual on mastering both the mechanics of speech and the meanings and social uses of language and expression. Once the SLP has conducted a thorough assessment and identified the areas that are the most challenging, they will work with the individual and their caregivers to establish goals that will help the individual to gain critical communication skills, whether that is mastering spoken language or equipping them with non-verbal communication skills. Seeking the right support for a child or adult with autism is paramount to the success of the individual in their personal, academic, and vocational lives. If you or someone you love is struggling to communicate due to ASD, connect with one of our incredible speech therapists by scheduling your free introductory call today!