Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Children's Service Areas

Autism Spectrum Disorder, Mother and daughter hugging

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that affects the development of social interactions and communication skills. Individuals with ASD vary widely in their communication abilities. Some children have no verbal speech. Other children may be limited to repeating commonly heard phrases. Children with higher level language skills may be verbally fluent, but restricted to a small range of topics and have difficulty with conversation.

When providing speech and language training to children with ASD, we are guided by six different areas of speech and communication: vocal imitation, motor imitation (sign language), requesting, labeling, conversation, and understanding. Many children with ASD do not have the ability to respond in all of these categories. They may have strong skills in labeling objects and answering questions about objects, but they may be unable to verbally request that same object. For example, the ability to label a candy when shown a picture of candy and actually requesting a candy when it is desired are two different functions for the same word. In typically developing children, vocal imitation transfers to labeling, and labeling to requesting without training. However, children with ASD need to be taught these transfers.

At Speech Pathways, our overall goal when working with children who have ASD is to teach functional communication. We want to improve their ability to communicate things that motivate them, and meet their needs. Children with ASD may develop maladaptive behaviours (e.g., aggression, tantrums, screaming) due to their inability to make requests. When we teach vocal or sign requests we help reduce inappropriate behaviours and improve social interactions. Alleviating some of these inappropriate behaviours improves the quality of life for the child as well as the whole family. We welcome the opportunity of helping your child with ASD realize their communication potential!