Does Speech Therapy Help Autism and Language Delay


As a parent, you may wonder how speech therapy can support your child with autism or language delay. In this article, we will explore the amazing ways speech therapy does help autism and language delays.

When you’re constantly by your child’s side, it can be challenging to notice the progress they make in therapy, especially when they have significant needs or a diagnosed disability like autism or intellectual delay.

That’s why it’s crucial to celebrate the small wins and recognize areas of growth that go beyond counting vocabulary. By understanding the broader aspects of therapy, you can truly appreciate the strides your child is making. Let’s delve into it!

What’s covered in this article:

Skills Beyond Vocabulary

Here are some examples of areas that are commonly focused during therapy (and science backed) for children with autism and language delay, all of which have nothing to do with counting vocabulary! Plus some tips on how to notice those small improvements your child may make in each area. 

Attention to Task

Refers to the ability to focus and sustain attention on specific activities or tasks.

  • Observing your child’s increasing interest and engagement over time.
  • Recognizing improvements, such as longer periods of focused attention.

Imitation of Gestures

Refers to the ability to replicate movements or actions made by others, like waving or clapping.

  • Noticing your child’s progress in observing and imitating your gestures.
  • Celebrating their growing ability to copy gestures after a few days.

Making Sounds or Vocalizations

Refers to the ability to use vocal expressions to communicate needs or seek assistance.

  • Identifying the social reasons behind their vocalizations (e.g., wanting an item, needing help, seeking comfort).
  • Recognizing when your child makes specific sounds to convey their intentions.

Coordinating Non-verbals

Refers to the ability to combine eye contact, gestures, and vocal expressions to convey intentional messages.

  • Noting if your child initially used these non-verbals separately.
  • Celebrating their progress in combining two or more non-verbals together.

Celebrating the Little Victories

Does speech therapy help autism and language delay

Heartwarming Wins from Real Kids

As a speech therapist, one of the most fulfilling aspects of my job is helping parents like you witness the small gains their child makes ❤️ Here are a few heartwarming wins from two of the children I am working with, showing how speech therapy can help autism and language delay.

1 year old – From February to May

  • Attention to task increased from 2 minutes per task to 10 minutes per activity (over a 30-minute period)!
  • Started imitating gestures in play, like clapping and waving, after a couple of minutes of modelling.
  • Began using the “ooo” sound to indicate “go” and vocalizing when needing help to open a container, making eye contact while expressing the intent for “help” simultaneously.

2 year old – From December to April

  • Transitioned from pointing and vocalizing to using single words to request or label without much prompting.
  • Initially reluctant to imitate 2-word phrases but now able to imitate them at least twice in ten minutes of play.
  • Progressed from attending to one activity for up to 5 minutes to attending for 10 minutes without much encouragement.

How does speech therapy help autism and language delay: The Science

Early Intervention is Key:

Numerous studies show that starting speech therapy as early as possible, ideally before the age of three, yields significant benefits for children with autism. Early initiation can lead to substantial improvements in communication skills and overall development. (Source: Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders)

Improved Language and Communication:

Speech therapy is highly effective in enhancing language and communication abilities in children with autism. Targeted interventions, tailored to each child’s needs, improve expressive and receptive language skills, enabling more effective communication. (Source: Pediatrics)

Positive Impact on Social Skills:

Speech therapy interventions incorporate social skill development, leading to improvements in social interaction for children with autism. They become better at understanding social cues, initiating and maintaining conversations, and engaging in cooperative play with peers. (Source: Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research)

Long-Term Benefits:

Early and consistent speech therapy has lasting positive effects on children with autism. Research indicates that receiving speech therapy interventions during their early years increases communication skills, reduces behavioural challenges, and improves long-term outcomes in education, employment, and social integration. (Source: Autism Research)

Every child is unique:

Remember, while these facts highlight the positive impact of speech therapy, it’s important to understand that every child with autism is unique, and therapy effectiveness may vary. Collaborating with professionals and tailoring interventions to your child’s individual needs ensures the best possible outcomes.

By understanding the broader impact of speech therapy and celebrating the small wins, you actively support your child’s development and communication skills. Speech therapy is a powerful tool that enhances attention, imitation, vocalizations, coordination, and social skills—going beyond vocabulary alone. Embrace the journey and witness the remarkable progress your child can achieve with the help of speech therapy! Your love and support make all the difference in their growth.

More about speech therapy helps autism – what the research says here

See the Online Speechie in action working on some of the skills mentioned above here


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