Speech is a troubling issue in autism spectrum disorders. Some children develop speech on time according to milestones, and then regress, losing all speech. Some children develop speech on time, but talk so much you’d like to pull your hair out, and some children never develop speech and are completely nonverbal. Every child is different in the “speech” part of the autism spectrum disorder disability. Whether your child is verbal or nonverbal, don’t give up hope. Many children with autism spectrum disorders begin to speak with one on one speech therapy. Others make incredible strides with PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) and other visual cues.
Always know, however, that your child is “in there.” A very highly publicized story about a boy who was completely nonverbal, who learned to communicate through assisted communication technology, went on to write and communicate brilliantly. He has let us into the mind of a person with nonverbal autism like never before. That man’s name is Tito Mukhopadhyay, and you can read more about it at Autism Today. It’s an exceptionally moving story — and a reminder to never give up hope.
Speech therapy will help both verbal and nonverbal children with autism. Before you begin therapy, you will likely have to complete a speech evaluation from a licensed speech language pathologist. After completing a series of tests with your child, the therapist should be able to tell you if your child would benefit from speech therapy, or if they qualify for speech therapy. Remember, vocabulary isn’t the only part of speech. Children with autism have a severely limited ability to speak in social settings, also known as pragmatic speech. Pragmatics is knowing how to use language appropriately in social settings.
Because children with autism already have social deficits, speech is greater impaired by their limited social skills, which makes for very awkward and odd speech patterns. The ability to converse is severely limited in most cases.