It is not uncommon for a child with autism to have delayed speech. However, diagnosing the root causes of the issue is not as simple as it looks.
In most cases, a proper diagnosis by an expert is usually required to discover the root causes of the lack of verbalization. There are usually 3 main reasons for a child’s inability (or unwillingness) to talk:
• oral/verbal/speech dyspraxia
• lack of vocabulary
• an environment that has over-coddled the child and thus, made it unnecessary for the articulation of needs and wants.
Dyspraxia, put simply, is a neurological disorder that affects fine and/or gross motor skills; in other words, a disorder that affects anything requiring coordination and movement. Speech or oral, dyspraxia in children is when the child has difficulty coordinating the precise movements required to produce clear speech with their mouths.
The proper diagnosis and treatment of oral dyspraxia in a child requires the expertise of a speech and language therapist. Here are some common features of a child with speech dyspraxia.
• Issues that the child might have with fine/gross motor skills and development in other areas
• The child has an inability to pronounce words properly
• Problems with sequencing the sounds in words, especially with longer words (for instance, the child is unable to consistently say “he-li-cop-ter’ in the correct sequence even in direct repetition).
• A strong preference for soft food and is not chewing the food
• The child finds it a challenge to manipulate his food in his mouth during mealtimes.
A child diagnosed with oral dyspraxia would need the help of speech and language therapists. Although progress is normally slow, it is possible to eventually help the child to learn how to speak more clearly. Of course, improvement varies with each individual child but with the right help, it is not uncommon for the child to eventually learn how to communicate effectively.
A LACK OF VOCABULARY
A child who has no problems with articulation may not be speaking for the simple reason that he/she does not know enough words to express what he/she may want to say. Try to incorporate word-building activities in the child’s daily routine, such as:
• Storybook reading time. Make it a point to read to your child, find out what he/she likes (animal stories, princesses, science fiction, robots, etc) and get the child interested in reading. Be expressive, ask questions, point frequently and encourage the child to react
• Play simple word games with building blocks and picture cards
• Patiently teach the child to ask for what he/she wants
AN UNWILLINGNESS TO SPEAK
In some cases, the child may have unwittingly learned that speech is unnecessary. This is especially common when he/she has been so well provided that the child has not been put in a position where the speech was necessary to express his needs and wants. The child may have also found another way of getting what he/she wants by pulling your hand or simply by crying or whining.
To combat this, don’t withdraw your care and support but instead, make small adjustments such as waiting for your child to articulate what he/she wants before giving it to him/her.
We’re Here For You
Whether or not the child has autism, every child is on a journey of self-discovery and
development. It may frequently be challenging but as parents and caregivers, it is also a
privilege for us to be such an integral part of their journey. If you have any questions or need help, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.