Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that affects one’s social skills and communication. Autism can be mild or severe, and usually appears before the age of 3.
If you believe your child has autism, it is important to have them evaluated by a team of professionals that includes pediatricians, neurologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and developmental specialists such as Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs).
SLPs play a key role as part of this team because problems with social skills and communication are often the first symptoms of autism. Patients with autism may have difficulty with communication, social skills, and reacting to the world around them. Not all behaviors will exist in every individual. However, possible signs and symptoms of autism-related to speech and language include:
- Not speaking or using very limited speech
- Loss of words the child was previously able to say
- Difficulty expressing basic wants and needs
- Poor vocabulary development
- Problems following directions or finding objects that are named
- Repeating what is said (echolalia)
- Problems answering questions
- Speech that lacks expected changes in tone (e.g., “robotic” speech)
- Poor eye contact with people or objects
- Poor play skills (pretend or social play)
- Being overly focused on a topic or objects that interest them
- Problems making friends
- Crying, becoming angry, giggling, or laughing at inappropriate times
- Disliking being touched or held
Reactions to External Stimuli
- Rocking, hand flapping or other movements (self-stimulating movements)
- Not paying attention to things they see or hear
- Problems dealing with changes in routine
- Using objects in unusual ways and unusual attachments to objects
- No fear of real dangers
- Being either very sensitive or not sensitive enough to touch, light, or sounds
- Feeding difficulties (accepting only select foods, refusing certain food textures)
- Sleep problems
Research has shown that interventions in the form of speech therapy can have a profound impact on the quality of life of individuals with ASD. Speech therapy can teach patients with ASD how to improve their spoken language, learn nonverbal skills such as signs or gestures, as well as overcome feeding and swallowing challenges that are often the result of ASD.
JSHC: Northeast Florida’s First and Only Healthcare Certified Autism Center
In 2015, our clinicians underwent comprehensive training to receive certification in autism care from the International Board of Crediting and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). From this process, the Jacksonville Speech & Hearing Center became the first, and remains the only, healthcare provider in Northeast Florida to earn credentials as a Certified Autism Center.
As a Certified Autism Center, we’ve taken steps to provide resources for patients with ASD so that they may receive treatment in an environment that is safe and inviting. Our sensory therapy room has its own separate entrance that limits external stimuli and is equipped with LED lights, which unlike traditional fluorescent lights, do not flicker and provide a softer illumination that is much more calming for patients with ASD.
With the training and facilities to back up our commitment to quality care and autism advocacy, we are dedicated to creating treatment plan that meets the unique needs of each patient and their families.