Speech-Language Pathologists & Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Opinion: Young Children with Autism Benefit from Speech-Language Pathology Services
Lori Savage Grayson, MMSc, CCC-SLP, FSL
As a pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), I am often the first professional a parent contacts when their young child is not achieving early speech, language or social developmental milestones. Therefore, SLPs like myself are often the first to identify a child with undiagnosed autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
What is ASD?
ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by difficulties in social communication, social interaction and the presence of restricted, repetitive behaviors. Autism affects an estimated 1 in 68 children and at the same time, it affects us all.
Early Identification and Intervention
An essential aspect of my SLP life includes educating others about the importance of early identification and intervention for children experiencing speech-language-communication-learning challenges and the benefits of working with a pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
This Center’s philosophy incorporates my belief that no child is too young or a concern too small that an evaluation or consultation would not be beneficial if a speech-language pathology or related problem appears present.
We know from research, as well as professional experience, that the earlier a child’s developmental challenges are identified and treated, the better their outcomes, including young children with ASD?
My child is not talking…
My initial contact with a parent may begin with, “My child isn’t really talking yet, but isn’t she or he too young to be tested?”
As SLPs, it is important that we help parents and our communities understand the differences between speech, language and communication and how an SLP can address these areas in young children.
How do you evaluate a young child?
The second question might be, “How do you evaluate a child who is not talking?”
As pediatric SLPs specializing in speech, language and communication development and disorders, we are trained to assess and treat young children in all areas of speech, language and communication, including children who are not talking, and may or may not be identified with ASD.
A Speech-Language Pathology evaluation for a young child may include observation and assessment of his or her speech sound production, oral motor skills, including eating and drinking, understanding and use of oral language, social language and social communication interactions.
For example, assessing what a young child understands and uses to communicate through vocalizing and verbalizing, how the child uses non-verbal communication such as pointing, giving, gestures, facial expressions, and yes, play skills. The SLP also gains valuable information through parent interviews.
After testing, then what?
The evaluation process allows an SLP to identify a child’s strengths and areas of need, offer a communicative diagnosis, and develop a plan of care with intervention goals and objectives. The SLP may also suggest recommendations for additional testing or referrals to other professionals.
My collaboration with other medical and educational professionals and local and state programs ensures the most appropriate services for each child and family. I believe that the success of ‘our children’ is only possible because of the trust, respect and cooperation that we all share.
Everyone deserves the best opportunity to communicate, play, tell stories, share emotions, learn, gain an education, achieve, succeed and be happy with family and friends. While each person with ASD has different strengths and areas of need, they share common challenges with social, communication and language skills.
Our Community Campaigns
Children’s Communication Center increases awareness, understanding and acceptance of children with ASD and other communication disorders through our Philanthropy and Community Partner Shares highlighting businesses and events.
Also, our Little Ones Rock campaign promotes all that our little ones ‘can be’ with words of inspiration, positive thinking, encouragement, and imagination hand-painted on each rock. Little ones can find our rocks throughout the community and at events.
Thank you to the Tallahassee Democrat for sharing my article highlighting the benefits of young children with autism working with an ASHA certified pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist.
You can read the Tallahassee Democrat’s article “April is Autism Awareness Month”, online here.
Contact this Center to speak with Ms. Grayson if you have concerns regarding your child’s communication development. Or, if you would like your business or event considered for our Community Partner or Philanthropy Shares.