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Help Your Autistic Preschooler Improve Speech Skills

written by: Lisalyn • edited by: Amanda Grove • updated: 1/17/2012

One of the biggest areas of concern with Autistic preschoolers is speech and language development. Speech therapy may be necessary. You can reinforce your child’s speech therapy goals with fun activities at home.

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    Speech Therapy Helps Non-Verbal Preschoolers

    Many people think speech therapy is for children who have problems with articulation or pronunciation. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Speech therapy can increase the chances of Autistic preschoolers speaking and communicating.

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    Speech and Language Therapy Skills

    Speech and Language Therapy is a form of treatment that focuses on all elements of communication. Preschoolers with Autism benefit when a Speech Therapy Plan is created early in a child's life and is implemented consistently throughout it. The skill points are individualized for each child and may include:

    • Articulation and sound
    • Social communication or receptive and expressive language
    • Sign language and PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System)
    • Fluency or speech flow
    • Oral Feeding Disorders

    A licensed Speech/Language Pathologist or Therapist will design a specific program for your preschooler. They will give you training and tips to help you expand on the therapeutic activities at home.

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    Practicing Augmentative Communication

    Teaching your preschooler basic sign language can increase communication quickly and build self-confidence. Start with signs like “eat”, “drink“, “sleep”, and “more”. Sign and say the words throughout the day. Add PECS cards that match the signs, along with cards of your child’s favorite toys, foods, and activities. Show the appropriate card as you sign and say the word. You will be amazed at how quickly your child will begin communicating with you.

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    Encouraging Speech and Language With Fun Activities at Home

    It is important to continue to strive toward the speech therapy goals developed by your child's therapist at home in your child’s natural setting. This continuance will create a natural flow as you help teach your child necessary communication skills. Here are some fun activities you can do at home with your preschooler to encourage speech and language. It is all about incorporating play with making choices, requesting, protesting, and pronunciation.

    • Sit in the floor with your preschooler and their favorite toys. Pick up two and begin to pretend play. Make the sounds and movements for the toys. Ask your preschooler to play and offer them the toys, asking “which one?” When he chooses, be sure to tell them the name of the toy and give them praise. For example, “You want to play with the truck! Good choice! Here is the truck. It goes brrruummmmm.”
    • Start with an activity your preschooler enjoys. It could be Playdoh, a puzzle, or bubbles. Always offer options and talk about the options. Allow them to choose. Start the activity and then stop it. You can close the bubbles or replace the Playdoh in its tub, for example. Encourage your child to request the activity or protest the end of the activity. This would be a good time to use the “more” sign or have him choose the proper PECS card from two choices.
    • Read books to your child. Listening to stories from a young age teaches a child to listen, to comprehend, to identify objects and sounds, and even to read. Books that have sound or texture are good choices. Encourage your preschooler to make the same sounds.
    • Memory card games are another fun activity that encourages language. Place one card in front of your child and tell him what it is. “This is a dog. Dog. Can you say dog?” Place two additional cards, one matching, and one different. Now ask him to show you the dog or match the dog. Remember to identify the other picture in the same way for extra practice.

    Every moment of playtime is an opportunity to supplement speech therapy with your preschooler with Autism. Make the most of your time together by having fun and learning the basic skills needed to communicate.

Preschool Activities for Special Needs at Home

Activities in this series relate to common therapies for Autistic preschoolers such as ABA, Occupational, Physical, and Speech Therapies. These supplemental activities strengthen these therapeutic concepts from home ensuring steady progress and consistency while away from the traditional therapist.
  1. Helping Your Autistic Preschooler Better Manage Sensory Information
  2. Supplementing ABA Therapy with Autistic Preschoolers at Home
  3. Occupational Therapy Games for Autistic Preschoolers
  4. Fun Home Activities to Supplement Your Autistic Preschooler's Physical Therapy
  5. Help Your Autistic Preschooler Improve Speech Skills