Autism and Role of SLP
The number of children being born with autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASD)—including Asperger disorder, pervasive developmental disorder, Rett disorder, and childhood disintegrative disorder—has been estimated to be between 1 in 200 to 1 in 150, yet few understand these afflictions.
The causes of this condition are still under debate.
According to the Autism Society of America, autism is defined as “a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a ‘spectrum disorder’ that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees.”
Children suffering from this condition do not process the world and its stimulus the same way as typically developing children do. Symptoms usually appear before the age of 3 and can include:
- Not responding to their name by 12 months
- Not pointing at objects to show interest (i.e. point at an airplane flying overhead) by 14 months
- Not playing “pretend” games (i.e. pretending to “feed” a doll) by 18 months
- Avoiding eye contact and wanting to be alone
- Having trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
- Having delayed speech and language skills
- Repeating words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
- Giving unrelated answers to questions
- Getting upset by minor changes
- Having obsessive interests
- Flapping their hands, rocking their body, or spinning in circles
- Having unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel
Once a diagnosis has been made, experts agree therapy and treatment should begin immediately. Because patients with autism have difficulty in communicating, and because these difficulties span a wide range, the benefits of working with a Speech-Language Pathologist are significant. An SLP can diagnose the type of communication disorder that a child presents, then suggest and implement a plan of treatment.
The correlation between communication and successful social interaction is self-evident, and a child who learns to communicate effectively is better able to form relationships. Research shows children who undergo speech-language therapy make significant gains in these areas.