Autism speech therapy and finding the right therapist

For your child with autism Speech Therapy can be very helpful in developing communication skills, play skills and social skills.

Before I say anything more about Speech Therapy please remember that I am not a speech therapist and don't pretend to be. I have however worked very closely with a number of speech therapists and my Mum is one.

When starting therapy for a child with autism you will discover that there are many different types of therapies provided by people with a range of different qualifications.

Each therapist will have their area of expertise for example Speech Therapists are the ones most qualified to work on communication. But they will most likely also work on some other more general skills such as play skills and social skills. Your Occupational Therapist or Psychologist may also work on these more general skills.

Ideally as parents you should choose a therapy mix which works on all areas that your child has difficulty with. Don't worry if there is an overlap as the more learning opportunities your child with autism gets the better.

If you are participating in a holistic program such as JumpStart you will most likely already be getting some assistance to develop your child's communication, but if this an area of concern for you, then look into Speech Therapy either straight after you have completed your holistic program, or at the same time.

Choosing the right speech therapist

When choosing an autism speech therapist remember that speech therapists work with children and adults with numerous communication difficulties. They may work with adults after a stroke or children who have difficulty pronouncing certain sounds.

A particular therapist may not have an interest or be an expert when it comes to providing autism Speech Therapy. It is therefore worth talking to the therapist and make sure that you are happy with their experience and interest in working with autism before you start therapy.

Many parents have told me about how they have wasted money because they were so desperate to get speech therapy started that they went to the first therapist who could see them. Their therapist was not experienced with autism and therefore was unable to engage their child well enough to make any progress.

If you are on waiting lists for Speech Therapy you may want to look into an autism specific holistic program that will get you started and wait for the Speech Therapist that you really want to see.

A Speech Therapist who has specialised in autism may have done further training to allow them to offer The Hanen program also known as More Than Words. Click here to find out more.

When starting autism speech therapy it is also really important that your focus is on communication and not speech. Of course you want your child to speak and of course that will be the ultimate aim of your therapist, but a good speech therapist will start off by showing your child what they can gain by communicating IN ANY WAY POSSIBLE. Once they are motivated to communicate speech will be easier to achieve.

Your speech therapist may suggest that you use visual supports with your child with autism. This is a good thing. It means that you have found a speech therapist who understands autism and is approaching communication holistically. It does not mean that they don't believe your child will speak and are trying to replace speech with other forms of communication.

You may have heard of PECS which stands for Picture Exchange Communication System and is a strict protocol for introducing the use of pictures for communication. Your Speech Therapist will need to have PECS training if this is something that you would like to be part of your child's autism Speech Therapy. Click here for more information about PECS

Boardmaker is a computer program that is often used to make visual supports whether you are using PECS or a less structured visual supports system. Click here for more information about boardmaker

Sign language is another tool that can be helpful when developing your child's communication skills. Sign language for autism is different to that used by the deaf community. Makaton or key word signing combines speech and signing and uses your child's strong visual skills to maximize their opportunities for communication.Click here for more information about sign language for children with autism

Many Speech Therapists who have specialised in working with children with autism run social skills groups. These groups can be very useful as they provide your child with an environment in which to practice the skills they have learned during their one-on-one therapy. Click here for more information about social skills groups for children with autism

If you are looking for a Speech Therapist who has specialised in autism your best option is to contact your local autism organisation.

If you live in Melbourne or other parts of Victoria click here for the Autism Victoria website

If you live in Sydney or other parts of NSW click here for the ASPECT website

When to start Speech Therapy

For a child with autism Speech therapy will most likely be useful for many years. Initially it may be helpful to get communication and speech started. If your child has some words your speech therapist can help you to extend their language and eventually they may be focusing on the quality of your child's speech. They may also work on your child's social skills.

As mentioned before private therapy is expensive so as parents you may have to make some hard decisions. You may decide to do short blocks of therapy to give you an idea of what you should be working on at home and then take a break until you feel that you cannot move to the next level without expert support.

You may delay the start of your autism speech therapy if you are having other therapies such as JumpStart which are helping you to get early communication going and save your money until your child has a few words and will gain the most from a speech therapist who is the expert when developing communication further.

As an Occupational Therapist who has worked closely with Speech Therapists I feel confident to help parents to get communication started, but as soon as it comes to developing the quality of speech I would encourage you to see a speech therapist.

And one final point...

Some speech therapists will come out to your home while others may only do clinic based work. Ask them if they do home based therapy as this may be beneficial at least initially until your child is used to the therapist. It also allows them to help you to adapt your home environment to facilitate communication which is an important aspect of autism Speech Therapy.

To return from Autism Speech Therapy to the home page click here

Click here for 
Jumpstart testimonials

'It is hard to express just how much Tali has helped us. Looking back I can't believe I coped as long as i did without all the skills that Tali has taught me'

Go to Jumpstart Waiting list

Tali is fun, creative, caring and a delight to be around. I am so grateful for all she has done for us and I couldn't recommend her more highly.

Click here for 
Jumpstart testimonials

'It is hard to express just how much Tali has helped us. Looking back I can't believe I coped as long as i did without all the skills that Tali has taught me'

Go to Jumpstart Waiting list

Tali is fun, creative, caring and a delight to be around. I am so grateful for all she has done for us and I couldn't recommend her more highly.