Communication is a fundamental aspect of human interaction, but for children with autism it can be a complex and uphill journey. Many children on the autism spectrum have challenges with speech and language development, making it difficult for them to express their needs, thoughts, and feelings effectively. Speech and Language Therapy, a vital component of autism treatment, plays a pivotal role in helping children develop their communication skills. In our recent blog, we explored how a strengths-based approach facilitates and encourages total communication.
Continuing our series, How Speech Language Therapy Helps Children with Autism (you can read Part One here), this blog discusses six specific ways in which speech therapy encourages and enhances self-advocacy skills in children with autism.
Speech therapy begins by establishing the foundational skills necessary for communication. Therapists work with children to develop essential skills like joint attention, gesturing, vocabulary, understanding language structure, and many others. This strong foundation is crucial for children with autism as it gives them the tools they need to express themselves clearly and confidently.
Speech therapy extends beyond basic language skills; it also emphasizes social communication. The social aspects of communication can be very nuanced, especially in the areas of understanding each other's perspectives, analyzing others’ thoughts and emotions, and maintaining personal safety. These skills are essential for self-advocacy, as they enable children to effectively engage with others in their home and community.
One of the primary goals of speech therapy is to help children express themselves. Therapists use various techniques, such as visual supports, role-playing, and interest-based storytelling, to encourage children to share their thoughts, preferences, and feelings. This practice of self-expression lays the groundwork for self-advocacy, as it not only empowers children to assert their needs but also allows them to experience a shared enjoyment within their preferences.
Effective self-advocacy often requires problem-solving skills. Speech therapists engage children in scenarios where they need to solve communication-related problems. For instance, they might teach a child how to request help when they do not understand something, encourage a child to ask for a break when it’s needed, or demonstrate how to advocate for a specific communication aid or sensory tool. These problem-solving exercises empower children to address challenges independently.
Confidence plays a significant role in self-advocacy. As children with autism make progress in speech therapy, they become more confident in their communication abilities and grow to learn that their perspectives and feelings matter. This increased self-confidence not only helps them advocate for their needs but also allows them to participate more fully in social and educational activities.
Self-determination is a critical aspect of self-advocacy. Speech and language therapists help children set communication goals and work toward achieving them. This process encourages children to take ownership of their communication journey, fostering a sense of self-determination and autonomy.
Speech therapy is an invaluable asset for children on the autism spectrum. It not only enriches their communication skills but also fosters self-advocacy capabilities. By dedicating resources to Speech and Language Therapy, we can empower children with autism to discover their voices, champion their accomplishments, and construct more promising futures.
Contact our Family Support Team if you would like to learn how to get started with Speech and Language Therapy or any other programs and services that we offer. Our Family Support Team is always available to help and is available at no charge to all members of the autism and developmental disability community. Schedule a free phone appointment that works with your schedule: AZAunited.org/supportcall
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