Autism speech. Speech-language support for autistic high school students

I’m not sure about you guys, but every year around IEP time I have the same conversation with school staff. Years ago it started with “well, Seth’s speech skills won’t get any better so let’s reduce the speech therapy”. Believe it or not, the conversation turned into “well, his speech skills have improved so much let’s reduce the speech therapy”. Doesn’t make any sense does it? I guess the speech therapy that didn’t work started working too well. But either way, let’s reduce it (confusing much?). Long ago I figured out the correlation between the ability to express your emotions and behavior. When you don’t know how to communicate you act out. Now, that DOES make sense. At least to me. If you can’t use your words, you use your body to communicate what you want and how you feel. That can come in many forms, such as a hug or a kiss. It can also lead to aggression when expressing frustration, anger, sadness, or embarrassment. Either way, speech therapy and behavior therapy (in my opinion) go hand in had and both are critical to autism support.

The following article discusses the role of speech therapy in a high school setting.


How Can Speech-Language Pathologists Better Assist High School Students On The Autism Spectrum With Communication?

by Ethan Hirschberg from The Journey through Autism

Hello everyone! Sorry for not posting in a while. I sustained an ankle injury that took up the majority of my time. I wrote this research paper a while back, and feel that this is a needed topic to be discussed. I provide my own insight and analysis to research regarding speech therapy. Enjoy!

How Can Speech-Language Pathologists Better Assist High School Students On The Autism Spectrum With Communication?

“There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child can do instead of what they cannot do” (Dr. Temple Grandin). It’s a well-known fact that one out of every fifty-nine children has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. One significant treatment that is provided to these children is speech therapy, which is facilitated by a speech-language pathologist (SLP). Despite ongoing therapy, many students on the spectrum in their high school years still have deficits in speech and communication. This begs the question: during this difficult time for students on the spectrum, what can speech-language pathologists in high school settings do to help? Speech-language pathologists in a high school setting can better assist students on the Autism spectrum with communication by understanding the certain speech deficits associated with Autism as well as knowing their specific roles in order to provide the best services possible.

In a high school setting, speech-language pathologists can better assist their students with Autism by understanding students’ own specific and unique speech/communication deficits. All of the types of speech and communication deficits that are worked on in speech therapy fall into one of three categories. Two authors from “Autism At A Glance,” an Autism column dedicated to helping high school staff,  mentioned that “deficits appear in three main areas: comprehension, expressive communication, and interacting with others” (Butler and Dykstra). Speech-language pathologists have to (in most situations) figure out which category a specific deficit or issue falls into in order to provide proper treatment. Similarly, two faculty members from Southern Connecticut State University noted:

People with ASD may have major problems with both speech and nonverbal communication. They may also find it hard to be social. Common speech deficits include not talking at all, uttering grunts, humming, and inexpressive tones of speech. Additionally, common communication deficits include trouble with conversational skills (eye contact and gestures), difficulty understanding words out of context, memorization, little understanding of words or symbols, and lack of creative language (Bhandari).

Speech-language pathologists in high school have the duty to focus on what deficits are present in each individual student on the spectrum. It’s not only inconvenient for a student, but never productive to work on fixing deficits that don’t exist. For instance, it wouldn’t make sense for a student who needs help with social skills to only work on the pronunciation of words. Because of this, it’s important to note that every single student is unique and therefore needs unique interventions. One distinguished professional notes to parents that “the type of intervention your child receives is going to be highly individual, depending on his needs and abilities. You are an important member of the team and will also play a role in the intervention with the pathologist. It’s important to remember that the goals and specific intervention strategies will be re-evaluated regularly, so expect changes in technique and approach as time goes on” (Vann). As speech-language pathologists in schools are able to provide a variety of interventions, they should know that each student that they have is different and therefore may need different interventions. It’s crucial for high school speech-language pathologists to understand deficits of each unique individual on the Autism spectrum. Knowing this, SLPs should also be aware of their roles as a team member for a student’s treatment plan.

CLICK HERE to read the full article.



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External Resources

Mayo Clinic

Genetics Home Reference – NIH

Support program: Autism Sibling Support Initiative

Support program: Sibling Support Project

Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council

Maryland Early Intervention and Special Education Services

Administration for Community Living

Pathfinders for Autism

Disability Scoop