Autism is characterized by impairments in social interaction, communication skill and restricted interest along with repetitive behaviour. If a child (around age 3) has been stuttering for three to six months, then visiting a speech therapist to seek a speech evaluation is advised.
Therapists conclude that the speech disorder in a child with Autism occurs as the result of the of the following factors:
- Genetic factors
- Neurological factors
Stuttering and autism are co-related. It is important to treat Autism and its related problems such as motor and language related issues. As a result of stuttering, children with Autism face issues with social interaction and communication. A speech-language pathologist helps in the diagnoses of stammering. After listening to the language of a child, during a conversation or a story retelling activity, a speech therapist can determine whether any supplementary linguistic deficits are present. If the child’s speech-test reveals the deficits or complications, the speech and language therapist will address the issues along with the best treatment.
Initially, parents are reluctant to seek appropriate therapy for their stuttering children as they feel that it may increase their self-consciousness about the speech. As stuttering interferes with social interaction, treatment is crucial! Hence, speech treatment is based on the client’s level of comprehension and is focussed on tools that may bring about verbal fluency and smooth social exchanges.
- Children with a higher comprehension level benefit from the picture or written form of tools coupled with practices
- Children with a lower comprehension level benefit from imitating therapist models such as visual models, stretching modelling clay for a ‘s-t-r-e-t-c-h-y’ and prolonged speech.
- Teach them the junctions where pausing is essential to:
- Organize thought
- Enjoy a breather if they find difficulty with their reading tasks
- Apply tools for an easy start or prolonged speech.
Useful Tips For Parents
Speech combined with stammering, in a child with Autism, is a challenge that affects his day to day activity. Therefore, support, encouragement and acceptance from parents, caregivers, teachers and society is expected. When talking to a child with speech drawbacks:
- Maintain an eye contact when conversing with him. With the help of facial expressions and body language let him know that you are listening to him.
- Never make him realize his speech disorder and stuttering.
- Minimize interruptions when the child speaks.
- Give him ample time to convey his thoughts.
- Each member should make it a point to talk to the child so that he feels loved and cared for.
Choose brief time periods to work on strategies as short consistent practices are often most effective.
Children with Autism having a prolonged stuttering habit can benefit from speech therapy. In some cases, the behaviour is completely eliminated while in other cases a slow but positive outcome can be expected. Whatever the outcome, speech therapy boosts the child’s confidence, improves the language skills and controls his stuttering.