Children on the Autism Spectrum present differently and no 2 individuals are the same. Some children require speech and language therapy, ABA ( applied behavioral analysis) therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, vision therapy, etc. to address concerns or difficulties. ABA is a set of principles that forms the basis for many behavioral treatments. ABA therapy includes many different techniques. All of these techniques focus on antecedents (what happens before a behavior occurs) and on consequences (what happens after the behavior). One such technique is “positive reinforcement.” When a behavior is followed by something that is valued (a reward), that behavior is more likely to be repeated. ABA uses positive reinforcement in a way that can be measured in order to help bring about meaningful behavior change. There are other techniques and the use of these techniques are very structured and can be very useful in decreasing undesirable behaviors and acquiring new skills. Some of these skills can be related to communication and ABA does help some kids to start communicating.
Language therapy in non-verbal children or children with limited communication skills, targets increasing the use of appropriate communication skills and the development of age or developmentally appropriate language. Language therapy is based on principles of development and the principle employed is based on the child and the child’s needs. Speech Language Pathologists (SLP’s) not only evaluate the communication aspect as a whole but are able to choose the appropriate mode of communication (verbal, device, sign, communication board.) The SLP is able to determine when to progress towards the next step in the communication continuum, and to help maximize the child’s overall communication skills. The SLP is also able to observe and evaluate any other concurrently occurring issues including speech, fluency, feeding/swallowing, voice, etc.
Speech Language Pathologists and ABA therapists can make a great team when treating children on the Autism Spectrum. The ABA therapists can provide the structured program to increase desired behaviors and the SLP can help to maximize the child’s ability to communicate at a level that is commensurate with their age or developmental abilities. There are also times when 1 professional is treating the child due to the specific needs of the child at that time (i.e, the child is displaying significant self injurious or violent behaviors) requiring the need for the ABA therapist to help get the behaviors under control. When the significant behaviors decrease the SLP can step in to enhance communication to further decrease frustration levels.