Autism is first and foremost a developmental disability. The most prominent traits involve:
extreme resistance to changes in daily routines
unusual responses to common things such as a touch.
Because autists have issues communicating and expressing themselves accurately in just about any way available, speech therapy is a key factor which allows them to, at least slightly resolve this issue.
The range of communication problems a person with autism may have is:
not talking at all, as in being completely silent
uttering inarticulate grunts and cries as attempts at communication
utter sounds that merely resemble words
utter words that sounds foreign, or talk in an overly flat way, like a robot
only repeat what another person has said, such as parrots do
or even use all the right sentences and phrases, but in a completely dry fashion, as if emotionless.
The communication problems an autist may be facing may also involve the trouble of understanding or memorizing the meanings of words or the lack of creative language.
The Role of Speech Therapy
Because of the said challenges the autism-ridden child must not only learn how to use language, but also proper speech, that is to say, intonation, accenting and such.
The role of speech therapy within the treatment of autism involves using: electronic talkers, singing or typing, the use of picture boards with words, the use of sounds which the given autist is either overly or under-sensitive to, improving articulation of speech etc. Various techniques may be applied alternatively, in accordance to the particular patient's preferences and needs.
There are many ways an autist may benefit from speech therapy, all of which improve his or her communication skills on a day-to-day basis. The therapy's goals are, accordingly, to help the autist to:
articulate words more accurately
develop the entire range of communication skills aside from the verbal ones
initiate communication without the prompting from others
know when to initiate communication
develop the basics of conversation, and then build upon them
learn self-regulation of communication, and last but not least
The Best Time to Start
Autism is apparent already at the age of 3. The sooner the treatments start, the better. That is to say, there is no real reason to wait, because speech therapy is more efficient the younger the patient is.