Speech-language therapy is a specialized therapy designed to address communication challenges and speech disorders. It is conducted by certified speech-language pathologists (SLPs) or speech-language pathology assistants (SLPAs), who have the expertise needed to identify, assess, and treat speech and language issues. 

A young boy practicing speech-language therapy.

How Speech-language Therapy Builds Skills 

Challenges with speech and communication are common in children with autism. Speech-language therapy addresses concerns including: 

  • Aphasia, apraxia, stuttering, cognitive-communication disorders, fluency disorders, resonance or voice disorders, and other developmental delays 

  • Feeding disorders/dysphagia 

 Through therapy, your child can develop language skills, voice and sound production, comprehension, fluency, and expression. Some advantages of speech therapy include:  

  • Improved self-esteem 

  • Increased independence 

  • Improved reading comprehension and school readiness 

  • Enhanced expression 

  • Better swallowing function 

What to Expect during Speech-language Therapy Sessions 

SLPs and SLPAs at Cortica conduct in-clinic or telehealth sessions designed to help your child overcome communication challenges. During a session, your child will engage in various activities tailored to their unique needs and goals, which may include: 

  • Articulation exercises to improve speech clarity 

  • Language activities to develop vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure 

  • Social skills training to enhance turn-taking and appropriate greetings 

  • Fluency exercises to address stuttering or other disfluencies 

  • Voice exercises to improve pitch, volume, and resonance 

  • Feeding therapy to address swallowing difficulties and food aversions 

The SLP or SLPA will develop a customized treatment plan that outlines the strategies and techniques they will use to help your child reach their goals over time.  

A speech-language pathologist and a young girl practicing pronunciation skills.

Using Speech-language Therapy Techniques at Home 

Incorporating speech-language therapy techniques at home with consistency can significantly benefit your child's communication skills. Here are some ideas for caregivers: 

  1. Read with your child: Choose age-appropriate books that capture your child's interest. Engage them by asking questions about the story and encouraging them to retell the events in their own words. 

  2. Limit screen time: Encourage face-to-face interactions by reducing the time spent on electronic devices. This can help improve social skills, eye contact, and joint attention. 

  3. Speak in full sentences: Model proper language usage by speaking in complete sentences when communicating with your child. This exposes them to correct grammar and syntax, helping them internalize language patterns. 

  4. Create a language-rich environment: Fill your home with opportunities for your child to communicate. Label household items with pictures and words, provide a variety of toys and games that promote conversation, and engage in daily routines that involve verbal interaction. 

  5. Use visual supports: Visual aids like picture schedules, social stories, or visual cues can help your child understand and remember instructions, expectations, and routines. 

  6. Encourage storytelling and imaginative play: Set up play scenarios that require your child to use their imagination and engage in conversation, such as playing with dolls, action figures, or stuffed animals. 

  7. Sing songs and recite nursery rhymes: Singing and chanting can help your child learn new vocabulary, rhythm, and speech patterns. 

  8. Focus on your child's interests: Use your child's favorite activities or topics as a springboard for conversation, encouraging them to share their thoughts and feelings. 

  9. Encourage turn-taking: Teach your child the importance of listening and waiting for their turn to speak during conversations by engaging in simple turn-taking games or activities. 

  10. Praise and reinforcement: Provide positive reinforcement when your child communicates effectively. Celebrate their efforts and progress to boost their confidence and motivation. 

The Duration of Speech-language Therapy  

How long a child may benefit from speech therapy varies greatly depending on each child's unique circumstances. Factors that may influence the duration of therapy include age, the type of speech disorder, severity of the disorder, and frequency of therapy sessions. It is important to maintain open communication with your child's therapist to track progress and adjust treatment plans as needed. 

Speech-language therapy is an invaluable resource for autistic children experiencing communication challenges. By understanding the process and benefits of therapy, and consulting a qualified professional, you can better support your child's growth and development.