Speech Therapy is an important tool for a child with autism. Unfortunately like many other things not every speech therapist is effective and appropriate for children with autism. There are two areas a parent can use to make the determination for which speech therapist is best for their child.
The first area to look at is whether the therapist you are considering is a speech pathologist. Not all people we call speech therapists are speech pathologists. Some school systems use speech, physical, and occupational aides who work under the direction of a speech pathologist. This is also true in some clinics.
Although parents may be able to get good results for their child when working with a speech aide, parents need to know who they are working with in the beginning. If working with an aide they might also want to know the speech pathologist who is supervising. It would be reasonable to be able to meet with that person in the beginning. How many years of experience a speech pathologist or an aide has working with children with autism would be useful information too.
The second area to look at is if your speech pathologist is a member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. The ASHA has recommendations for working with a child with Autism. Since these are only recommendations you still want to look deeper into what a speech pathologist is actually doing with your child.
Since autism is more about language and communication you are looking for more that enunciation and formation of letters, sounds, and words. You are looking for a speech therapist who will work at stimulating sounds and speech from a child.
A parent should watch to see if the speech pathologist is working to stimulate meaningful conversation, understands humor and jokes, and makes eye contact. Ideally they should be engaging your child to look at you. Using mirrors and other toys is also part of what speech pathologists use to stimulate a child with autism to use their words.
It is possible for a speech pathologist to work on pronunciation and conversation at the same time. There is a lot of data that proper speech is the foundation of reading. For this reason speech therapy is important early in your child’s diagnosis.
Some children continue to get speech therapy services well into their teenage years. The speech pathologist in or out of the school setting can work on things like initiating conversations and making small talk.
Speech therapy is such an important tool for children with autism. It can be difficult to make the right choice when making decisions on who to use. Knowing if your child is getting direct services from a speech pathologist or services from an aide and asking about ASHA membership are the first two clues a parent can use when making choices for a child with autism.