As a parent, you want what’s best for your child.
No doubt you’ve researched everything from play activities, to diet, to daycares in an effort to give your child every possible advantage.
So if you start to notice they aren’t hitting developmental milestones at the same rate as their peers, it can be worrying and disheartening.
You start to question every decision you’ve made.
Wondering what you could have – should have – done differently.
But know there’s help available.
If your child is non-verbal, you may want to consider speech therapy for kids.
We’re District Speech, a speech therapy clinic serving Washing DC and Northern Virginia, and today we’ll take a look at how speech therapy can help non-verbal children.
Keep reading to learn more.
What Is Nonverbal Autism?
Nonverbal autism falls under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which identifies an assortment of neurodevelopmental disorders.
Disorders on the autism spectrum are linked due to their impacts on individuals’ ability to communicate, and their impacts on socialization, development, and behavior.
Up to 40 percent of children with autism spectrum disorder are nonverbal.
Let’s look at how to recognize nonverbal autism, and some ways speech therapy can help improve communication.
What Are The Symptoms Of Nonverbal Autism?
The biggest factor which can help determine if a child has nonverbal autism or not is if they’re able to speak clearly, and without interference.
Many individuals with autism spectrum disorder have difficulty communicating or carrying on a conversation, however, those who are nonverbal won’t speak at all.
This could be because of not having developed verbal language skills, or disorders such as childhood apraxia of speech which is when the brain has difficulty sending signals needed to coordinate muscle movement.
Aside from the inability to speak, symptoms of nonverbal autism can be divided into three categories: social, developmental, and behavior.
Social symptoms involve having issues with social interaction, and include:
- Avoiding eye contact
- Not recognizing/respecting personal space
- Resisting physical contact
Behavioral symptoms include:
- Being upset at interruptions in routine
- Obsessive interests and fixations
- Short attention span
Developmentally, they will often be delayed compared to other children of their age.
What Are The Early Signs Of Nonverbal Autism?
According to the Centers for Disease Control most cases of nonverbal autism can be recognized by the age of two.
Signs to watch for include:
- Not responding to their own name by the time they turn one year old
- Unusual reactions to sounds, smells, taste, touch
- Not showing interest in objects (such as pointing at an airplane overhead) by 14 months
- Hand flapping, spinning in circles or rocking their body
- Not playing “pretend” by 18 months
- Showing obsessive interest in things
- Avoidance of eye contact
- Upset by small changes to routine
- Delayed speech and language skills
- Trouble understanding feelings
- Preferring to play independently from other children
- Inappropriate facial expressions
How Can Speech Therapy Help With Nonverbal Autism?
Every child should have some way of communicating their needs with those around them.
If you suspect your child has nonverbal autism, there are a variety of ways speech therapy can help them to develop communication skills.
Let’s have a look at some strategies which can help.
1. Determining If Speaking Is An Option
Some children who are nonverbal may be able to develop the ability to speak with some practice.
Having them attempt to imitate sounds or simple words can show whether or not further developing speech may be a viable option.
If they are able to form basic sounds then further speech development is probably possible.
2. Finding And Employing An Alternate Communication Method
If it’s determined verbal communication isn’t possible, there are other means children can use to communicate with those around them.
These can include:
- Body language
- Pictures boards/Picture exchange
- Object symbols
- Sign language
- Written messages
- Voice-output devices
3. Teaching Them To Follow Directions
For directions which are given routinely day to day, creating picture cues can help them learn to follow directions.
To do this, make a list of instructions or directions you are using regularly with your child, and create picture cues to go with them.
You can use positive reinforcement, such as access to a favorite toy, to help teach your child these cues and reinforce learning.
4. Teaching Them To Imitate Others
Children who don’t have the developmental issues associated with autism, generally learn to imitate others at a young age.
This imitation is important for social interactions, and although it often doesn’t come naturally to children with ASD, this skill can be taught.
Start with easy, whole body gestures and work up to complex actions and fine motor skills.
5. Teaching Other Skills
Other skills which are important for children to develop include learning to request a favorite toy, or learning to take turns with others.
Teaching them ways to communicate “my turn”, and then as they get older “in a minute” and learning to take turns.
Book An Appointment With District Speech
Are you worried your child isn’t developing at the same rate as their peers?
Maybe they’re not speaking at the same rate of other children at preschool.
Or you seem to recall their older sister or brother was speaking in full sentences by now.
District Speech can help.
One of our professional speech therapists can perform an assessment of your child’s development, and offer solutions to help with speech development.
Contact us today to set up a consultation.
1300 I St NW, #400E,
Washington, DC 20005
District Speech and Language Therapy specializes in speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy solutions, for both children and adults, in the Washington D.C and the Arlington Virginia areas.