Autism affects speech and language growth along with a lack of social and communication skills in individuals. They sense trouble producing vocal sounds to communicate with others and the verbal sounds they speak (utter) are also difficult to hard recognize. The communication and speech issues seen in individuals with autism include:
Partial or complete loss of speech
Talk in a sing-song mannerism
Utter sounds like grunts and shrieks
Babble word-like sounds
Repeat what a person says (echolalia)
Say sentences without an expressive tone
While facing these challenges, individuals with autism slip into depression or adopt an aggressive behavior as they are unable to convey their wants and desires. They need to learn how to communicate in a language or hold a conversation. For autism speech therapy includes building verbal and nonverbal prompts such as facial expressions, signs, body language and voice tone.
Programs for speech therapy for autism begins with a thorough evaluation of the individuals by speech therapists to assess their verbal and communication challenges. Some of the common goals of autism speech therapy include improving both spoken language and learning nonverbal skills using an alternative method such as pictures.
Speech therapists work on areas such as:
Strengthening the jaw muscles
Perfecting speech sounds
Using correct facial expression
Recognizing the body language
Responding to a question with an apt answer
Deciphering what pictures represent
Modulating of the voice tone
Techniques for non-verbal individuals
Throughout the speech therapy sessions, the therapists work closely with individuals having major trouble with non-verbal skills. For speech therapy for autism, therapists introduce various techniques to help them express themselves. These techniques include:
Use of pictures with words also known as a ‘picture exchange’ to help them communicate
Use of over- or under-sensitive sounds to expand their speech-sound bank
Massaging and exercising of facial muscles for improving pronunciation
Benefits of speech therapy for ASD
Speech therapy for autism improves the overall communication skill in individuals. This helps them to improve their relationships and to function well in life.
The goals of speech therapy for helping individuals include:
Express themselves with the right words
Communicate verbally as well as nonverbally
Initiate meaningful communication without prompts
Know when to use words such as ‘good morning’, ‘thank you’, ‘please’, etc.
Communicate to develop friendships and improve relationships
Enjoy playing and interacting
With early identification of autism symptoms and intervention to treat speech issues, speech therapists help to improve communication skills. Using a speech-related app, individuals with autism can develop language skills on an iPad, iPhone or Android phone.
Every person with autism has problems with his/her communication and social skills. Known as a ‘spectrum of disorder’, the associate problems with autism can vary in various stages of severity. The children exhibit interest in particular things (watching their favorite cartoon show on television, playing with only preferred toys), or in repetitive behavior (flipping objects, running around) and do not like changes in their daily routine. They also have sensory problems towards certain texture/color of food, sound, light, taste and avoid being touched.
Autism Related Problems
Children with autism suffer from various problems, such as:
Children with autism either over-react or under-react to sensory stimuli like smell, touch, vision and sound. At times they play deaf when called and at other instances, they get disturbed and react violently to even the slightest sound. They also tend to be sensitive to touch and cringe to the certain texture of fabric, paints or even a friendly hug.
Known as one of the most harmful associated problems with autism, the unique behavior of ‘pica’ inspire the individuals to consume non-food items like mud, chalk, hair, paint, clay, or chew on pencils. This problem occurs due to various reasons:
This type of problem is similar to repetitive behavior (spinning) in which the individuals enjoy consuming non-food items.
Individuals are unable to differentiate between food and non-food items.
Genuine cravings and nutritional deficiency (iron or zinc) give rise to pica problem.
Problem With Learning Abilities
Learning disability in autism affects the intellect of individuals where they face difficulties in interacting with others, adapting to different situations, and controlling their behavior. The most common behaviors seen in individuals with a learning disability are:
Stereotyped behaviors (rocking the body)
Self-injury (banging head on the wall)
In contrast to the above associate learning problems with autism, some of the children also fall under savant category where they excel in various subjects.
Sleep disorder in children is one of the commonly diagnosed problems with autism. This problem is linked to restlessness, irregular sleep pattern, and difficulty falling asleep. These patterns can lead to problems which include reduced cognitive and learning skills, anger, depression and irritation.
How To Help Children Lead A Better Life
Various therapies and medications help to provide relief from various problems with autism. Parents must visit a doctor as soon as they detect the symptoms of autism for safe and effective treatment, according to their needs and complications.
An individual who is tormented with often experience trouble when interacting or communicating with people around them. He/she also lack-in interest (hobbies), activities, and play skills. To develop these limited or lost skills, occupational therapy for autism can help to develop them at home or during the sessions under the guidance of an occupational therapist.
Occupational therapy intervention for autism children is one of the most beneficial interventions, which involves simple strategies, to target various sensory processing disorders too. The therapy helps individuals, across their lifespan, to do the things that are essential for daily activities (occupations).
Why Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy for autism help individuals to participate fully in school and social situations, regain underdeveloped skills and provide supports for physical and cognitive transformation. Occupational therapy typically includes strategies to maintain, and develop the functional skills needed in life to promote:
An occupational therapist uses a holistic approach, according to each individual’s needs, to enhance his/her physical, emotional, social, sensory and intellectual abilities.
The Role Of Occupational Therapists
Occupational therapists study human growth, emotional, physiological effects, and his/her interaction with the environment through their daily activities. Through planned strategies and set goals, they help to encourage skills in individuals with autism and other neurological disorders essential for independent living. Their set specific goals often involve social interaction and classroom performance.
Occupational therapists gather all the required information to develop a program according to each individual’s needs. The therapists observe them to see if they can do tasks like tying shoelaces and getting dressed. They also combine various strategies to help individuals respond better to the environment. These strategies include:
Physical activities such as spinning, skipping, jumping and balancing on a wobble board develop body coordination.
Play activities such as swing, block-games and puzzle help develop communication and interaction skill.
For individuals who dislike brushing their teeth use of a vibrating toothbrush or toothpaste that they prefer are included.
Adaptive strategies to handle transition issues with less stress.
Occupational therapists use methods to promote the skills essential for individuals to participate in daily life activities. Thus, occupational therapy for autism is a sure way to build skills such as handwriting, motor skill, bathing, dressing, and other daily living skills. Occupational therapists support individuals (of all ages) with autism to live life to its fullest and promote renewed health to live better within society.
Autism spectrum disorder is a neurological condition that impacts how a person communicates, understands, and socializes with others. The symptoms of autism also include restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior. Autism is referred to as a ‘spectrum’ due to the wide range of symptoms that vary in severity.
Autism spectrum disorder sets in prenatal stages, soon after delivery or in early childhood, causing functionality issues. Some children may appear to grow normally for the first 12 months and may suddenly exhibit symptoms of autism or a period of regression between 12 to 24 months of age. Parents often wonder as to what causes autism spectrum disorder?
What CausesAutism Spectrum Disorder?
Both genetic and environmental factors are the reason behind the onset of autism.
Genetic Factors: Different types of genes are said to be the cause of autism in children. In some children, autism is associated with a genetic disorder such as Fragile X syndrome or Rett syndrome. Genetic changes or mutations also increase the chances of autism spectrum disorder which are either inherited or occur spontaneously. They affect brain development and disturb the brain's plasticity.
Environmental Factors: Some of the factors such as viral infections, alcohol, and drug abuse, medication for depression, exposure to air pollutants and toxic along with complications during pregnancy, play an important role in prompting autism spectrum disorder.
Other Risk Factors:
Extreme prematurity: A baby born before 26 weeks of gestation has a greater chance of acquiring autism spectrum disorder.
Parent’s age: A child born to older parents also has a risk of having this disorder.
Each child with autism spectrum disorder has a different set of symptoms that varies in the level of severity and functioning. They may have difficulty learning, lower/normal/high intelligence levels, trouble in communicating and adjusting to social situations.
Symptoms of social, communication and intellectual disabilities
Some of the symptoms of autism that exhibit social, communication and intellectual disabilities in children are:
Failure to respond to his/her name
Do not like to be touched or embraced
Prefer playing alone and avoid other children
Poor eye contact
Lacks facial expression
Speaks a singsong voice
Do not understand orders
Unaware of other people’s emotions
Do not point at objects
Difficulty in understanding nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions, signs or the tone of voice
Symptoms of Behavior Disabilities
Repetitive or restricted movements
Follow a specific routine and get annoyed at the slightest change
Has odd movement patterns, such as walking on toes
Fascinated by certain parts of the toys such as the wheel of a bus or the head of a teddy bear
Show sensitive towards sound, light, or touch
Specific food preferences of a particular texture or color
Because of the unique mixture of symptoms in each child, severity can sometimes be difficult to determine. The severity of autism spectrum disorder in children is based on the level of impairments and their ability to function. While there is no cure for autism, early treatment through various rehabilitation therapies can make a big difference in the lives of individuals.