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Speech-Language Therapy

What is Speech/Language Therapy?
Speech/language therapy is therapy provided by a speech/language pathologist to address the communication and social skills of children with Autism.

How does Speech/Language Therapy make a Difference for Individuals with Diagnoses on the Autism Spectrum?
Speech/Language Therapy can address difficulties a child might be having with speech sound acquisition, the fluency of speech, developing functional language, increasing the use of that language in everyday contexts, and building social and play skills.

What Do Speech/Language Pathologists Do?
The speech/language pathologist (SLP) works with you to determine the most important skills to teach at the given time then provides direct 1-1 therapy to address these skills. Speech/language therapy session are typically relatively short (30 min to 1 hr depending on the child’s age and needs) during which the SLP provides a combination of play type therapy and drill depending on the needs of the child. The SLP also provides training and consultation to others working with the child to make sure the skills being taught are practiced throughout the child’s daily life.

What Can One Expect from a Speech/Language Pathologist?
One can expect that all licensed speech/language pathologists have an understanding of communication development in typically developing children and information about diagnosing and treating a wide variety of communication disorders. Since it is such a large field, not all speech/language pathologists have the training and experience with Autism specifically needed to understand the unique needs of this population across the lifespan. An SLP with experience with Autism should be able to:

  • Provide both standardized and non-standardized assessments and observations to determine the child’s current communication profile
  • Develop goals that are appropriate for meeting the current needs
  • Use data driven decision making to determine when goals are being met or when teaching procedures need to change
  • Train parents and other caregivers in using strategies to increase the communication skills of the child.

Who is Qualified as a Speech/Language Pathologist?
SLPs are typically licensed in the state they are practicing and all should have the Certificate of Clinical Competence issued by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association. As stated above, a qualified Speech/Language Pathologist may not have extensive experience with Autism so it’s important to ask specifically about post graduate training and experience when considering a speech/language pathologist to work with your child. It is also important, if you’re working within a specific therapeutic model, that the SLP has experience with that model and can work as a cohesive part of your team to address communication issues.

Where Do Speech/Language Pathologists Work?
SLPs work in clinics, hospitals, schools and in homes. The setting should be determined based on what’s best for the child. Some children do much better in clinic based therapy where the environment can be more carefully controlled, at least at the beginning of the therapeutic relationship. Others do much better when the therapy is provided in the home or school setting where we want the therapy to occur in the future.

Is There Research to Support Speech/Language Therapy for Individuals with Diagnoses on the Autism Spectrum?
There is evidence to support the practices that many speech/language therapists use. It is important when choosing an SLP to make sure they have training in the evidence based practices identified below, and most specifically with the approach you and your team have determined to be the most appropriate for your child at the given time. The National Autism Center conducted the National Standards Project where research on treatment approaches was reviewed. Speech/Language Pathologists may use any or all of the 11 practices with an established evidence base including:

- Antecedent Package
- Behavioral Package
- Comprehensive Behavioral Treatment for Young Children
- Joint Attention Intervention
- Modeling
- Naturalistic Teaching Strategies
- Peer Training Package
- Pivotal Response Treatment
- Schedules
- Self-management
- Story-based Intervention Package

How Can You Find a Speech/Language Pathologist or Get More Information?
To contact a licensed and nationally certified speech/language pathologist in your area contact the American Speech/Language and Hearing Association at ASHA.org. To find people experienced specifically with Autism in your area it is often helpful to contact the Autism Society in your area or talk to other parents of children with Autism.

Article provided by:

Let's Talk Speech & Language Services, Inc.

Tracy Vail, MS, CCC/SLP