Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a lifelong developmental disability that can affect people in a variety of ways, including persistent difficulties with social interactions, social communication, sensory processing and unusual behaviours (eg restricted play and repetitive behaviour).

Speech Pathologists are professionals trained to assess and treat communication difficulties, including social/pragmatic language difficulties. Deficits in non-verbal communication may include poor eye contact, inappropriate body language and difficulties understanding or using appropriate gesture and facial expression.

Children on the Autism Spectrum often have difficulty developing pretend play, turn taking in play/conversations and developing age appropriate interactions and friendships with their peers.

Pragmatic language difficulties will vary in different situations (eg preschool and home) and will present differently as children become older and their language and social demands increase at school.

Speech Pathologists have a key role in assessing and treating children on the autism spectrum. Typically a formal assessment will also include a paediatrician and psychologist.

Speech therapy varies depending on a child’s age and specific learning needs. For toddlers and preschoolers, this frequently focuses on facilitating understanding and expressive skills through play sessions with parents. Often visual schedules or manual signing support understanding and help to reduce frustration/tantrums for young children.

Parents may also benefit from Psychological input to provide behavioural strategies and support. A team of psychologists are based at the clinic.

The evidence based More Than Words program developed by the Hanen Centre, is designed to assist parents to communicate with their children in everyday situations, encourage language and social skills. This program is run at the clinic.

Children may benefit from individual language therapy focusing on language comprehension and social skills. Many children on the Spectrum may have other communication difficulties (eg language delay/disorder and poor clarity,) that also warrant attention in speech pathology.

The clinic offers social skills groups for children aged 4 – 10 years of age. These groups are run during school terms and focus on pragmatic language skills, peer interactions and fostering the development of peer friendships.

Adolescents referred for an autism assessment can also receive individual therapy or paired therapy, focussing on pragmatic language skills.

The clinic also offers detailed team assessments and on-going management with our team of caring and experienced Speech Pathologists. Coupled with regular liaison with paediatricians, family and school, this all helps to optimise outcomes for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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