Autism Spectrum Disorders
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Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism spectrum disorders

The role of the Speech-Language Pathologist with ASDs

Speech-Language intervention with ASD

Common terms in Speech-Language intervention with ASDs

​Downloadable materials​



Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are a group of related developmental disorders, in which individuals exhibit difficulties in social interaction, communication and imagination. These are known as the Triad of Impairments. ASDs include:
  • Classical Autism
  • Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder (not otherwise specified)
  • Rett’s Disorder / Syndrome
  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder   


What is the role of the Speech-Language Pathologist with ASDs?

The Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) is often one of the first professionals to come into contact with children with ASDs. This is because it is usually the communication difficulties these children exhibit which alert the parents to a possible problem. The role of the Speech Language Pathologist is critical in supporting the individual with ASD, the environment, and the communication partners to maximize opportunities for interaction in order to overcome barriers negatively affect social interaction.

The responsibilities of SLPs with individuals with ASDs include: 
  1. Screening children for ASDs, and monitoring those at risk, including siblings of children already diagnosed with an ASD, due to the possible genetic link
  2. Assessing and diagnosing the child’s social communication skills
  3. Providing intervention
  4. Liaising with parents and other professionals 
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Speech-Language intervention with ASDs​

SLPs work with individuals with ASDs in the clinic, home, school or other settings according to their needs. The SLP is qualified to work on the comprehension and use of language. This includes the social aspects of communication, such as:
  • Turn-taking
  • Eye-contact
  • Attention and listening skills
  • Interpreting emotions
  • Understanding others’ intentions
  • The use of alternative and augmentative communication systems (AAC).

The play-based approach used by SLPs is ideal for children with autism because it targets play and imagination, language, and social skills. These constitute the triad of impairments characteristic of the condition.

SLPs also work with feeding and swallowing disorders, and can therefore provide input in the case of children who may be fussy eaters due to, for example, oversensitivity. 

SLPs also liaise with parents and other professionals, such as teachers, Learning Support Assistants (LSAs) and occupational therapists. This is to ensure a consistent approach with the child as well as to tackle any problems which fall within the domain of communication or feeding.


Common terms in Speech-Language intervention with ASDs

Visual Schedule: A timetable using photos, pictures, symbols and/or words. This helps the child understand the sequence of tasks to be completed.

Social Story
: A story set up in a particular format to help these children understand social rules.

Communication Book
: An augmentative and alternative communication system consisting of a set of pictures / symbols / words. The child points to or exchanges these with a communication partner as a means of communication.


ASD newsletter

 ASD Newsletter
The ASD Special Interest Group within the Speech Language Department issues a monthly newsletter aimed at all those who are interested in ASD.
If you would like to subscribe and start receiving the Autistic Spectrum Disorders Newsletter simply email to the Speech Language Department by clicking on the following link...

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