What is Autism Speech Pathology?

Christina Hall
Christina Hall
Doctor taking notes
Doctor taking notes

Autism speech pathology is the study of speech disorders that affect people with autism. The specific language problems associated with autism are varied, but all contribute to people with autism not being able to communicate effectively. The autistic person usually has significant problems interpreting language and interacting with people. The specific cause of disorders on the autistic spectrum remains unknown, but treatment of the associated speech pathologies is an accepted modality that encourages intellectual and social development.

Development in these essential areas is severely delayed in many autistic children. There is a general consensus among autism speech pathology experts, however, that the prognosis is greatly improved with early treatment. The most intense time of language absorption is from birth to 3 years, and it is usually apparent around age 3 that a child is exhibiting autistic tendencies. Most autistic children have short attention spans and are not able to make eye contact when communicating. These deficits lead to the child missing social cues and not integrating language rules and phonemes into his or her vocabulary.

Speech development by people on the autistic spectrum is uneven. On one end, some are only able to grunt or repeat incoherent stock phrases. Some people with autism do not learn to talk at all or exhibit unusual voice projection. On the other end, some are able to speak at length about complicated topics or do extremely difficult math equations. Either way, underlying deficits in social functioning is observed on both sides by autism speech pathology researchers.

Parroted phrases will often make up most of the person's vocabulary, and it becomes evident that the person is unresponsive to most orthodox forms of communication. Word intonation and sentence rhythm is askew, and the person's sentences will sometimes contain no relevant information. As communication pathologies are discovered, a unique plan can be implemented by a therapist to help overcome deficits.

Autism speech pathology experts are encouraged by the wealth of information that is being gathered among caregivers and divulged by people with autism. Therapists realize the broad spectrum of the disorder and are flexible in their approach to treatment. With tailored care plans that can include things such as music and tactile therapy, people with autism are learning to communicate more effectively and can contribute significantly to a personal therapy plan. For example, it can be communicated if he or she feels comfortable in a highly structured atmosphere or in a more relaxed home environment. Personalized therapy plans are helping people affected by the disorder lead more fulfilling lives.

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