How a Speech Language Pathologist can help a child with Autism

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Speech-language pathologists or SLPs are an integral part of an Autism team.

Challenges with social communication are a trademark of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and speech-language pathologists are clinical professionals that specialize in all areas of communication.Speech-language therapy is more than working on lisps and stutters. The scope of practice for Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) includes everything that involves communication. This ranges from:

  • sound production
  • grammar
  • comprehension
  • knowing what to say and when
  • reading
  • writing

Many children with ASD have difficulties with several of the above areas, which can make it challenging for them to communicate effectively. The SLP’s number one goal is increasing the effectiveness of your child’s ability to express their wants and needs. Achieving this goal comes in a variety of forms based on the child and their needs and development.
The role of the SLP changes with the child as they grow. Early in their treatment, SLPs focus on:

  • -increasing communicative intent and desires
  • encouraging the child to use language either verbally, through sign and gesture or with an augmentative communication device
  • increasing engagement, through joint attention and shared effect
  • make communicating with others more desirable and effective
  • setting the groundwork for later social skills.
  • developing vocabulary

Expanding utterances and improving the grammatical complexity and accuracy of speech typically follow.

It is not uncommon for children to also have challenges with articulation and forming speech sounds. Traditional articulation therapy may then also be a component of your child’s intervention.

Once children are capable communicators

Children with ASD often require support with conversation skills, as the skills involved in social interactions must be broken down and taught explicitly.
While you may know that you’re supposed to return the favour of asking someone how they are when you see someone, this is not necessarily obvious to our children with ASD. Many social norms need to be brought to their attention and practiced with different people and in different contexts to be learned and mastered.
SLPs work together with families to focus on the child’s areas of needs and help support the family as a unit. Priorities of the family, developmental appropriateness, academic requirements and social skills are all taken into consideration when speech therapy goals are created, and treatment is provided.


By: Lauren Robinson

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For more information on the role of speech-language pathologists, here are additional resources.
Ontario Speech and Language Association (OSLA)
Autism Ontario

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