Speech and language therapy for autism

Children and young people undergoing assessment for possible Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASC) will usually require an assessment by the Speech and Language Therapy Service.

This is to assess the child's social communication abilities, which include:

  • Non-verbal communication skills (body language)
  • Conversational skills
  • Appropriate use of language
  • Vocabulary and sentence structure
  • Understanding of language.

The speech and language report is a key element to the evidence required by the autism panel (responsible for providing your child with a diagnosis), so it's very important that you keep the appointment.

How is an appointment made?

For most children, the referral into this service is made by the paediatrician. Once the referral is received you will usually be sent an 'opt-in' letter asking you to phone up and select an appointment.

We currently offer appointments at three locations:

  • Atherton Health Centre
  • Longshoot Health Centre
  • Pemberton Health Centre.

You will not wait longer than 18 weeks, and most children are seen within 12 weeks.

You will be sent a confirmation letter which includes a questionnaire to fill out about your child's early development; current issues with speech, language and communication; friendships and conversational skills. Please bring this to the appointment.

What to expect on the day

We aim to offer a relaxed and friendly environment to ensure you and your child are at ease. The session usually takes 60-75 minutes. Assessments can vary depending on the child/young person and may include:

  • Informal assessments i.e. play and/or conversation
  • Formal assessments i.e. language, such as assessment of comprehension and expression (ACE 6-11) or clinical evaluation of language fundamentals (CELF-4)
  • ADOS-2 (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule) - A semi-structured assessment of communication, social interaction, and play
  • Gathering information from parents/carers on their child's social interactions, friendships and conversational skills as experienced by them in everyday situations.

We aim to be flexible, and so if there is sensitive information that you do not wish to discuss in front of your child, we can arrange to speak separately. With young children this will usually only be possible if you bring along a second adult to the appointment. For older teenagers, we will usually give the option of them being assessed without the parent/carer in the room.

We also have the option of discussing sensitive information over the phone following the appointment.

What happens after the appointment?

Following the assessment, we will write a report and distribute it (with your permission) to you, your child's paediatrician, school and GP.

This report will include details about your child's social interaction, social communication and language skills. In addition, we include recommendations of strategies that may be helpful in supporting your child at home and in school.

On most occasions, we will not need to see your child again, however, on occasion we may wish to observe your child in school. We may also offer further coaching to yourself or school staff.

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