development

Speech Matters July 2011

A Speech Language Pathologist can help children with autism

Speech Matters

by Cheryl D. Lindsay M.S. S-LP

The Autism Society of Canada website provides the following definition: “Autism Spectrum Disorder, also referred to as autism, is a neurological disorder which causes developmental disability. Autism affects the way the brain functions, resulting in difficulties with communication and social interaction, and unusual patterns of behaviour, activities and interests.”

Autism affects boys four times more often than girls and usually appears in the first three years of life.

In the term Autism Spectrum Disorder, (ASD), the word spectrum is used to show the uniqueness of each child with autism. There are milder forms of the disorder, sometimes called “higher functioning” autism, diagnosed using the term Aspergers. The other end of the spectrum includes children exhibiting more severe characteristics.

It is so important to realize that each child diagnosed with ASD has individual strengths and weaknesses. Children with autism find it difficult to interpret and then respond to information in their environment.

Some of the more common characteristics that are seen in children with autism include: 

1. Communication:

-may be verbal or nonverbal

-pronunciation variable; speech may be telegraphic, or robotic,

 with a high pitched voice

-echolalic speech i.e. repeating what they have heard

-use of “canned phrases” or learned responses

-may be able to repeat entire scripts from movies but unable to answer simple questions.

-rely more on gestural communication, such as hand leading to

 request

2. Motor Abilities:

-fine motor deficits  

-poor coordination

-depth perception deficit

3. Social Interaction:

-poor pragmatics or social language – i.e. may not show interest in

 others

-poor processing of semantics or meaning- i.e. may take you  

 literally

-may resist or be overly affectionate

-lpoor eye contact

4. Behaviours:

–flapping, spinning

-lining up toys

-inappropriate play with toys i.e. focused on a moving part vs. the

 whole

5. Sensory:

-may be overly sensitive to or seek stimuli such as noise, light,

 texture

-may be overly sensitive to or seek stimuli such as deep pressure

6. Safety issues:

-not aware of harmful situations, may self-injure

7. Health issues:

-Gastro-intestinal sensitivities and sleep disturbances

The cause of ASD is still unknown but research is flourishing. Early intervention is crucial. Your doctor, early intervention professionals and speech-language pathologist can be excellent resources.

ASD must be diagnosed by a developmental pediatrician. When parents bring their child to see an SLP because of a delay in speaking, the SLP may use an inventory or checklist to help in ruling out autism. An SLP also provides help with an individually tailored treatment plan, which may include elicitation of verbal responses, teaching gestures and sign language, a picture exchange communication system, (PECS) or other augmentative or alternative communication, (AAC). Building routines during interaction can be helpful when teaching language and new forms of communication.

Some children with autism benefit from IBI (intensive behaviour intervention). This is highly structured behaviour, cognitive and social skills therapy provided by specifically trained individuals.

Autism not only impacts the child, but their parents, family members, caregivers and professionals providing help. It may be overwhelming for families who must familiarize themselves with the many different disciplines and resources associated with supporting their child.  Knowledge and awareness are crucial to understanding ASD and getting help.

References: www.autismsocietycanada.ca, www.autismcanada.org/pdfs/PhysicianHandbook.pdf

Speech Matters September 2010

Parenting Tips to Help Develop Speech and Language in Young Children – Speech Matters  – September 2010

By Cheryl D. Lindsay, M.S. SLP

In the last two columns, milestones were presented for parents who may be concerned about their child’s speech and language development.

 There are many ways in which parents, grandparents and caregivers can help encourage good communication.

 A speech-language pathologist will look at several areas of development when assessing a child. The tips shared below have therefore been divided into categories:

 Social Language:

  • Make eye contact. Communication is more effective when talking face to face.
  • Encourage turn taking by playing games.
  • Use your child’s name often.
  • Use gestures with words.

 Expressive Language:

  • Give your child time to answer questions.
  • Allow your child a chance to make a verbal request instead of anticipating what they want and giving it to them. 
  • Give choices and show interest in their choices to encourage self-confidence.
  • Let them talk to family members on the phone.
  • Describe your daily activities as you go along. For example, “I’m drying you with a big blue towel”.
  • Don’t interrupt your child when he/she is speaking.

 Receptive Language

  • Encourage your child to follow directions starting with one step directions: “Tidy-up time”, and then progressing to two or more steps.
  • Read books. Start with simple picture books. Help label items by pointing. Encourage interaction and echo reading. When your child starts to read, don’t always correct mistakes. Let them use pictures to formulate their own sentences and to anticipate what happens next. It is valuable to read the same books over and over again to help understanding. Allow invented reading. They feel like they are reading even when they have memorized the text.  Talk about first sounds and letters in words.
  • Sing songs – most include rhyming and repetition, which in turn, helps comprehension.

 Vocabulary Development

  • Label items in your house by naming them or even labeling them in print, at their level.
  • While riding in the car, sing songs, point out and name familiar objects or signs.
  • Look in a mirror together and locate and name body parts.

 Articulation

  • Talk to your child often.
  • Speak simply, slowly, clearly, and turn to face your child.
  • If words are mispronounced model back the correct pronunciation without being negative. If your child says, “Are we going in the tar?”, you may respond, “Yes, we are going in the car.” Use a calm, positive tone of voice.
  • Don’t constantly correct your child’s speech. They may become hesitant to talk.

 Overall, it is important to remember to have fun, be a good model, and show enthusiasm when communicating with your child.

(Next month:  “School Readiness:  Speech and Language are Important Components”)

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