What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

October is Autism Awareness month. As Speech Therapists we work with children with Autism frequently. Our clients with Autism are often the most challenging yet rewarding on our caseload. Children with Autism have so much potential and Speech Therapists play the important role of unlocking their ability to communicate. Giving these children an outlet and the ability to communicate with their parents, siblings, grandparents and friends is such an emotional and gratifying journey.

Autism is a complex developmental disability that has been steadily increasing in incidence over the last decade to be one of the most common developmental disabilities. Based on recent studies by Canadian researchers, the prevalence rate of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is 1 in 94. In Ontario, there is an estimated 100,000 individuals with ASD.

It typically appears in the first three years of life and is a result of a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain. People with Autism typically have difficulties with communication, social interaction, behaviour , play, and sensory impairments, .

 What Causes Autism?

Although a single specific cause of Autism is not known, current research links autism to biological or neurological differences in the brain. At this time, no gene has been directly linked to Autism.

As with any communication disorder, early intervention is vital for optimal success. If you have any concerns with your child’s speech and language development, speak with your Doctor today and consult a Speech-Language Pathologist.

Red Flags of Autism

  • No babbling by 11 months of age
  • No simple gestures by 12 months (e.g., waving bye-bye)
  • No single words by 16 months
  • No 2-word phrases by 24 months (noun + verb – e.g., “baby sleeping”)
  • No response when name is called, causing concern about hearing
  • Loss of any language or social skills at any age
  • Odd or repetitive ways of moving fingers or hands
  • Oversensitive to certain textures, sounds or lights
  • Lack of interest in toys, or plays with them in an unusual way (e.g., lining up, spinning, opening/closing parts rather than using the toy as a whole)
  • Compulsions or rituals (has to perform activities in a special way or certain sequence; is prone to tantrums if rituals are interrupted)
  • Preoccupations with unusual interests, such as light switches, doors, fans, wheels
  • Unusual fears
  • Rarely makes eye contact when interacting with people
  • Does not play peek-a-boo
  • Doesn’t point to show things he/she is interested in
  • Rarely smiles socially
  • More interested in looking at objects than at people’s faces
  • Prefers to play alone
  • Doesn’t make attempts to get parent’s attention; doesn’t follow/look when someone is pointing at something
  • Seems to be “in his/her own world”
  • Doesn’t respond to parent’s attempts to play, even if relaxed
  • Avoids or ignores other children when they approach

 How a Speech Therapist Can Help

In Ontario, the only professionals who can diagnose Autism are Medical Doctors and  Psychologists. In other Provinces and Countries, Speech Therapist are able to diagnose children with Autism even though we share the same training. The Regulated Health Professions Act limits therapists in Ontario from diagnosing, however we are often involved with the diagnosis process.

Although a Speech Therapist cannot diagnose Autism, we play a vital role in describing and defining the communication and social skills. The Speech Therapist will assess the child’s speech, language and communication skills and provide services to effect signicant changes within the following areas:

  • Speech – articulation and intelligibility of speech
  • Language skills – the understanding and use of language (also known as receptive/comprehension and expressive skills)
  • Communication skills – requesting skills, commenting, conversational skills, etc.
  • The social use of language – pragmatic language skills
  • Reading skills – the ability to decode words and read with meaning/comprehension
  • Written language skills – the ability to write for a variety of purposes
  • Vocal quality – the rate, rhythm, and speaking style
  • Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) – sign language, Picture Exchange Communication System, voice-output devices such as GoTalk or iPad/iPhone with Proloquo2go.

Therapy sessions can be individual, or can take place in a small or large group settings.

It is so important to keep in mind that no one person with Autism is the same. Each person is unique in their strengths and areas of difficulty and there is a wide range of levels of impairment. Many children with Autism are quite intelligent and can be successful and competent adults. If you are a parents of a child with Autism, the Welcome to Holland  poem, if you haven’t already read it, is a must.

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s speech and language development, contact us today.  We are here to help!

info@speechandco.com | 1 844 804 5437 | www.speechandco.com



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