I’m excited to share some thoughts with you about autism and speech therapy activities for an autistic child
If you are reading this article, I’m guessing that you know a child who has been diagnosed with autism. You are very likely interested in knowing the best speech therapy activities for an autistic child. I worked for years with autistic children, exploring therapy activities that emphasized speech and language skills, social communication, and interactions. I constantly looked for ways to improve a child’s ability to talk, interact with others, understand language, imitate, stay regulated, and much more. Because of my love for kids with autism, my journey to learn about them has never stopped.
Because I did home visits, I got to observe, first hand, the joys, struggles, challenges and solutions experienced by caregivers over the years. In addition to hands-on experience, I have also had extensive training in the field of autism. My focus, in particular, was toddlers and preschoolers. I am thrilled to share speech therapy activities I learned when working with my young autistic students. In addition, I will share ideas for coaching parents.
The range of abilities and challenges in children with autism is huge.
The term, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) refers exactly to that. Children with autism fall on a very large spectrum, making it difficult to fully explain the similarities, differences, and treatment suggestions in one article. People often say that when you’ve met a child with autism you have only met one child with autism. Your child is unique, has unique strengths, and needs, but there are also some similarities in children with autism. Let’s explore the world of autism and discuss some strategies.
Parents – You are amazing!
You know your child and what he/she likes and doesn’t like. You have undoubtedly tried many things to help build communication skills, interaction, and regulation. Some things have probably worked and others have miserably failed, but you have persisted. You have probably figured out how to avoid or decrease tantrums and to help your child stay regulated. And, whether you realize it or not, you have been providing your version of speech therapy that improves social skills and functional, verbal communication. So, keep on exploring ways to help your child communicate and interact. So, what are the best speech therapy activities for autistic child? The answer to that question may surprise you.
Watch your child.
What does he love? We can’t always do just the things your child loves. Enjoyable activities, though, will be ones that can be tweaked to improve his/her communication skills. Write a list of all the things that your child loves and what he/she doesn’t like to do. How you approach the likes and dislikes will be different. I have written a book, WE CAN TALK, that discusses many strategies for parents to navigate their child’s world.
Think about your child’s daily routines
If your child was my client, I would go through your entire day and ask how each routine goes. I would ask how your child navigates each routine and how involved he is in each step of the routine. Another important question is whether he has struggles with any routines. I would then ask how he communicates in each routine, how he interacts, and how he engages with you. In addition, I want to know how independent he is, and how well-regulated he is during each routine. Finally, I would ask you to choose some activities or daily routines that you would like to change or improve.
Think about the supports your child needs
We would then discuss the types of support you could give your child such as visuals. Visuals are great for supporting your child’s receptive language/understanding. I would discuss using consistent language to use to help your child understand what is expected of him. We would brainstorm any physical help your child needs to complete a task. We would look at simplifying the environment to decrease your child’s frustration, and much more. It’s impossible to list all of the strategies to use to help your child, but this may get you started. So, you can see that, often, the best speech therapy activities for an autistic child are simply your daily routines.
Get support for yourself.
You should not navigate this road yourself. Get the support you need from professionals who teach children with autism. Seek out services in your area. Professionals such as speech language pathologists, psychologists, special education teachers, occupational therapists, and others who specialize in autism will be able to evaluate your child. These professionals can guide you in areas where you may not be familiar. Find programs that include you in the intervention process. You are the most important person for your child. It is so important you be involved in your child’s learning.
Another way to find support is to read additional articles on the topic of autism. Check here for an article entitled, Helping Kids with Autism. In addition, Talk It Rock It has some products that you may find very helpful. I used them extensively in my work with kids with autism and their families.
Know that intervention helps.
6-12 months from now, look back at what you have learned and what your child has accomplished. Rejoice in every accomplishment. At first it can feel like you are trying to take 10 different puzzles and somehow fit them together to make a whole. Down the road, the puzzle you are piecing together will become clearer and more complete.
Your child has unique talents and challenges. The best speech therapy activities for an autistic child include ways to build on both of those.
These are very general suggestions, but they are the essence of my years supporting parents and kids experiencing the puzzle of autism. In my direct early intervention coaching with parents, I get very specific, but everything started with those basic thoughts. As you begin this journey, see your child as just a kid. He or she just happens to have unique talents and challenges but who has a desire to learn. Finding the right tools is part of the journey.
How do autistic children receive speech therapy at home?
There are many resources for diagnosing and treating children with autism. My career was spent mostly with young children from birth to age 3 and preschool age, 3-5 years. That is my area of expertise, so that is the age group I feel most comfortable in giving suggestions.
Virtually every activity your child does during the day is a potential learning opportunity.
Having said that, there are also many specific and structured speech therapy activities. These activities focus on teaching very specific skills such as imitation, use of gestures, following directions, interaction, and more. Kids need repetition to learn, so finding activities that offer many turns and practices is crucial. Choose those activities that your child loves to do. Use them to teach the skills that are hard for him. So, the answer to the question, What are the best speech therapy activities for an autistic child? Start with activities your child loves and build on those.
A great website!
For any parent of a young child with autism and any professionals who work with young autistic children, I encourage you to go to www.Autism Navigator.com here. This site is filled with excellent therapy ideas and videos. They do a great job describing the strengths and weaknesses of children on the autism spectrum. Even if you work with older children, this website is amazing. I was trained by Amy Wetherby, PhD and professor at Florida State University. Dr. Wetherby created Autism Navigator as well as The First Words Project. I think they are some of the best resources in teaching how to recognize autism and how to provide intervention.
Please check out both websites, look at their Red Flags checklist, and the checklist, 16 Gestures by 16 Months. In addition, view their many videos that compare and contrast typical communication/interaction with the communication and interaction seen with autism. These sites are so valuable and can be great tools to help you.
Check my blog posts frequently.
Best wishes in your journey of helping your child with autism. I have written another article, How to Teach Speech to An Autistic Child, that can also help you in this journey. I will continue to add new blog posts frequently. Please sign up for my newsletter to receive notices of my new blogposts.