ASD Support Basics: Speech Therapy

Speech therapist Mindy Hung explains the vital role of speech therapy for children with ASD.

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MINDY HUNG

Biography:

Mindy holds a BA degree in Linguistics Cognitive Science and a MA in Speech Language Pathology. She is a certified practicing member of Speech Pathology Australia and a registered member of the Hong Kong Institute of Speech Therapists. 

Mindy specializes in various approaches like DIR Floortime, PECS, Hanen It Takes Two to Talk, Voicecraft, and key word sign. She prioritizes individualized learning, collaboration, and empowering parents.

What are the typical speech and language challenges faced by children with ASD?

Autistic children, like neurotypical children, exhibit a wide range of language abilities. Some may have no difficulties with spoken expressive and receptive language, while others may benefit from augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) methods such as written words, pictures, or apps. 

A combination of both approaches may be beneficial for some individuals. However, differences in communication styles between autistic and neurotypical individuals can lead to misunderstandings, highlighting the importance of educating both groups about each other's communication styles.

Research suggests that most autistic individuals are gestalt language processors (GLPs), meaning they initially learn language in chunks, such as songs or full phrases, rather than focusing on individual words. This indicates that traditional language teaching approaches may not be as effective for them as for analytical language learners (those who learn language at the word level). This poses a disadvantage for gestalt language processors, as society generally emphasizes analytical language development.

How can speech therapy help my child with ASD overcome communication challenges?

Speech therapists who possess knowledge in AAC, gestalt language processing, and the typical communication styles of autistic individuals can offer valuable parent education and therapy plans that optimize the learning experience for autistic individuals.

Can you elaborate on the significance of early intervention for non-verbal children with ASD and the role speech therapy plays in their overall development?

Children who experience challenges with speaking or have limited speech abilities may encounter difficulties with motor planning or may not have been exposed to appropriate language models that align with their communication styles.

Early intervention allows therapists to get in early and identify the best way to support the child’s learning development, which will mean avoiding unnecessary delays to the child’s language learning. 

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What are some essential strategies or techniques when working with very young children with ASD who have limited or no verbal communication skills?

During therapy, a common approach is to promote multimodal communication, which involves offering children various means to effectively express themselves. 

This may include a combination of spoken words, gestures, signs, pictures, and high-tech AAC methods. It is important to note that we encourage communication through modeling without placing expectations on the child. This means we demonstrate the desired expressions and messages but do not require children to repeat them.

How can we evaluate whether the frequency and duration of therapy sessions are suitable for my child?

Several key factors influence the assessment of appropriate session frequency and duration. Parent participation is a crucial component, including their ability to attend sessions and implement therapy strategies in daily routines.

When parents can effectively apply therapeutic approaches to daily activities, typically weekly sessions prove sufficient for troubleshooting challenges faced at home, modeling strategies, and adjusting goals and AAC usage as necessary.

However, if parents require therapists to assume a more significant role in ensuring regular practice, more frequent sessions may be beneficial. Session duration should consider the child's regulation, warm-up time, and attention span. For instance, children requiring more time to regulate might benefit from longer sessions, while those with shorter attention spans may fare better with shorter sessions.

Do you have any recommended resources or interventions that can complement speech therapy for my child?

Many autistic children experience sensory and motor planning differences that can affect their regulation and communication. In such cases, we recommend consulting with an occupational therapist who specializes in addressing these specific needs. Additionally, parents can find valuable resources by following social media accounts run by professionals in the field who affirm neurodiversity and provide insightful information.

 

Visit Resources here to download our curated list of speech therapy services.