Communication issues are a core deficit of autism. Speech Therapy targets verbal communication deficits and can range from teaching basic sounds, utterances, and pronunciation to much higher levels of social pragmatic language (even very verbal people diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome are likely to misuse and misconstrue language on a regular basis). Speech therapy can help non-verbal people develop communication skills, and maybe even verbal skills over time.
A speech therapist working with an autistic child or adult will work on a wide range of skills including:
- Non-verbal communication. This may include teaching gestural communication, or training with picture cards, electronic talking devices, and other non-verbal communication tools.
- Speech pragmatics. It's all well and good to know how to say "good morning." But it's just as important to know when, how and to whom you should say it. Speech pragmatics are an ongoing organic skill that need to be practiced and improved as a child grows up. What is appropriate at age 3, may not be appropriate at age 8 and may certainly not be appropriate in an adult.
- Conversation skills. Knowing how to make statements is not the same thing as carrying on conversations. Speech therapists may work on back-and-forth exchange, the ability to change topics and not “drone on,” as well as the ability to pick up on the social cues that indicate when the conversation needs to be concluded.
- Concept skills. A person's ability to state abstract concepts doesn't always reflect their ability to understand them. Autistic people often have a tough time with ideas like "few," "justice," and "liberty." Speech therapists may work on building concept skills including the use of idiomatic language.