Parents of autistic kids may sometimes express frustration that it is difficult to understand what’s going on inside their children’s minds. Some autistic kids are completely nonverbal, meaning that they don’t speak at all. While speech therapy techniques can help autistic kids, we still don’t know nearly as much about autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as we should. Some people have suggested that one of the communication problems between autistic and neurotypical people is that autism has an entirely unique language all its own. This doesn’t seem too far-out when you consider that, if you’re not a computer programmer, you might have difficulty understanding the computer geek at the office holiday party who is talking a mile a minute about MySQL performance analysis with TCP/IP network traffic. (Still don’t believe me? Check out this New York Times article on Amanda Baggs, who is nonverbal, but has a “constant conversation with… (her) environment.”)
Speech therapy has definite benefits for children with autism. A speech-language pathologist (SLP) can help a nonverbal child use an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device. Those who struggle with articulation may benefit from Speech Buddies. But we definitely need to know more about this disorder, and researchers have risen to the challenge.