Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterized by late development, as well as altered language and speech development that comes with certain particularities and does not identify with the student’s intellectual level. The communication of a student with ASD is flawed throughout all of its components: the person has poor understanding, they have difficulties expressing themselves, they have difficulties creating functional speech and with non-verbal communication (body language, gestures, mimicking, position, posture and behavior in social
settings, emotions, etc.). Many students with ASD never develop speech, nor create sounds that we can recognize as words. For them it is important to learn how to use non-verbal or alternative forms of communication. Alternative forms of communication can be taught to students whose speech is undeveloped, limited or difficult to understand.
Speech-language therapy occurs in a modernly equipped speech therapy chamber at the Center for autism Rijeka, for each student individually and lasts for 30 minutes.
The preliminary condition necessary for creating individual or group work programs is the observation through which the student’s degree of language-speech-sound development and effective communication capabilities are assessed. This collected information about the student’s communication abilities are the basis upon which the next steps of the procedure can be planned, while goals, work methods, means, actions and evaluation processes can be programmed.
Program content includes:
A. developing understanding as a basis for developing speech/language (receptive speech)
B. developing vocalization and articulation (expressive speech)
C. developing functional communication
D. developing alternative forms of communication
It is important to note that therapy primarily begins with the student, their possibilities, their needs, wants and what they demonstrate. Therapy procedures are adapted to each student and to their needs.
The program’s content also includes other fields closely related to communication, such as non-verbal communication, visual and auditory perception development, motivation, attention and concentration development, the reduction or elimination of undesirable behavior, the integration of the student with autistic disorder into single
elements of social surroundings and into society as a whole, as well as symbolic games. Considering individual differences between students, the methods used in therapy depend on each student, on their capabilities, motivation, interaction and behavior. The child’s sensory needs are kept in mind and different techniques are used with the goal of developing or improving the student’s communication capabilities.
Different means and working aids, with an emphasis on a visual approach, are used in therapy. The speech chamber is equipped with a multitude of didactic equipment,
visual materials, communication boards, daily and weekly schedules, visual materials, a Behringer machine, communicators such as GoTalk 20, a Super Talker, an iTalk2, a talking photo album, as well as tablets with various applications such as Communicator+, photo material-PECS photos, pictograms and such similar materials, a computer and a notebook. The Early Intervention Project led to acquiring other materials to work with the youngest users, such as SIT for professionals, CDs and a stereo, Coral and Reynell tests, Talk tools, didactic and sensory equipment, and similar materials.