It’s estimated that about 40% of children with autism are non-verbal or have a speech delay. Just because your child isn’t saying anything, it doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to say. And just because they aren’t speaking right now, it doesn’t mean they never will.
In most cases, children with a speech delay can fully process and understand what others are saying but they struggle to communicate their own thoughts. This can be extremely frustrating for the child and for us as parents. Remember, just because your child can’t tell you their thoughts or feelings doesn’t mean they don’t have thoughts and feelings.
In my video What is Autism? I mentioned how, in 2013, autism, Aspergers and a few other conditions were lumped together into a single diagnosis. Before this time, an autism diagnosis typically meant the individual had a speech delay, while an Aspergers diagnosis was reserved for kids without a speech delay.
Now that the diagnoses are lumped together it means you’ll find children with autism who have a speech delay and children with autism who don’t have a speech delay.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that just because your child has a speech delay it doesn’t necessarily mean they have autism. There are plenty of other reasons a child might have a speech delay and we’ll discuss a few of them here.
3 Common Types of Speech Delays
- Apraxia: Apraxia is a deficiency in a person’s motor ability to create words. However, it’s less of a motor problem and more of a neurological problem. With apraxia, the brain isn’t communicating effectively with the mouth and tongue to properly form words.
If apraxia is the root cause of your child’s speech delay, after ruling out other issues with a neurologist, my first recommendation would be to consult with a chiropractic neurologist. These professionals would be the best at deciphering where in the brain the problem is happening and how we can fix those problems.
- Expressive Speech Delay: This refers to a child who has trouble communicating in your direction or, in other words, expressing themselves.
- Receptive Speech Delay: This refers to a child who has problems understanding, processing, or receiving information. These kids may be slower at processing speech but it doesn’t mean they have an intellectual disability.
How to Treat Speech Delays in Children with Autism
Before you can begin treatment, it’s important to look for the root cause. Regardless of whether the root cause is medical or neurological or something else entirely, treatment will typically include both therapeutic and medical interventions.
Therapeutic interventions may include the use of assistive communication devices and speech therapy. These types of interventions are really valuable.
My professional experience lies with medical interventions and it’s what I will discuss here, but it’s important to note that I’m not promoting the use of one or the other. For optimal results I recommend using therapeutic and medical interventions together.
Medical Issues That May Contribute to a Speech Delay
- Mitochondrial dysfunction
- Cerebral folate deficiency
- Different vitamin and nutrient deficiencies
- Tongue tie
- Retained primitive reflexes
Supplements to Treat a Speech Delay
Supplements can be helpful in treating a speech delay however, not all of these supplements are necessary for every child. You need to figure out the root cause of your child’s speech delay and then pick the appropriate supplements to target the issue. The supplements listed here are ones which have been proven effective.
- Folate or folinic acid
- CoQ10 (or ubiquinol)
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- B6 (P5P) and magnesium: effective when used together
- Vitamin D
- Iron: Too much iron can be toxic so it’s important to work with a provider to find the right dosage and determine if your child truly needs an iron supplement or not
I know it’s exhausting to deal with speech delay and autism. Remember to never give up on your child and continue to be curious. Always assume competence. And most importantly…
Be gentle with yourself. You’re doing a great job.
I hope this information has been helpful to you as part of creating Your Autism Game Plan.
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All my videos offer unbiased, actionable advice for your most common autism challenges.
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