Speech Delay Due to Autism

Updated on April 16, 2008
H.P. asks from Fremont, CA
10 answers

Hi, I have a 2.5 yr old daugther who is autistic. She was dignosed about three months ago, since then we have taken all the neccessary steps to get her help. She is currently going thru occuptional therapy as well as getting services from the ABA program. She is on the waiting list for speech therapy.
I am so concerned that my daughter will never learn how to talk! Is there a chance that my daugther will ever talk? I want her to start talking, at least say mama or dada... she is currently learning sign language which is great but i am afraid that signing will be the only way she will communicate. Wondering if any of you are experiencing similar situation.... I hope to hear success stories of parents with autistic kids who eventually learned how to talk. I am really down because of this, i need to hear that there is hope for my daughter. I love her soo much and would give my life just for her to talk. I pray for a miracle that one day, she will wake up and say mama....

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answers from Sacramento on

Hi H.. Your daughter's speech will all depend on where she is on the spectrum. The fact that she is starting to sign is deffinitely a step in the right direction. She is learning that she can communicate with words. Another program used by kids with communication disorders is the Pictrue Exchange Program (PEP). The child shows pictures or chooses pictures based on their wants/needs or in response to a question. This is another great way to encourage speaking. We are currently signing and using PEP with my son with Downs.

I have two friends with autistic children that both speak. The one didn't speak until she was 5. She signed for three years before she actually talked. She's now has quite a vocabulary, has learned to write words and read. She's only 6 1/2. My other friend's son is now 13 y.o. and he talks all the time - not always appropriate for the situation, but he talks all the time.


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answers from San Francisco on

Dear H. P,
I have gone through your situation and I'm still going through it every day. My daughter Jocelyn wasn't diagosed until she was 4. She had Autism but but at the high fuctioning level. We had her placed on Bio polar meds because she had been also diagnosed with mental disorders as well as diabetes type 1. Diabetes was at the age of 2 1/2. Jocelyn was placed on Abilify at the age of 4. She is now 8 and is talking up a storm. My son is speach delayed do to hearing loss. She fuctions better on medicine than off medicine. I don't know where you live but son had a teacher come to the house until he was 3 and then he was picked up on the bus and went to a free special day class for preschool for more help. My daughter was also bussed to the same school but then transfered to a specail day class at the age of 5 for kndergarden. Call your county too see if their is a program to help your child. We did with Jocelyn. She had a free speech evaluation by our home school speech theripst. That will get the ball rolling for more programs that might be abe to help. Also have you tried contacting your local regional center. They can also get you more help. Hope this helps. you can always contact me with any questions.... M. Petersen



answers from Fresno on

I work with students who have autism. Because every child is different I can't say your daughter will talk but their language can come. It takes alot of work and intervention but I have seen so many children with autism speak. It may not be what we consider a normal range of language but it is possible. Keep praying and treat your daughter like you expect her to speak.Children rise to our expectations when able. God Bless.



answers from San Francisco on

Oh gosh, I know just how you feel! I have two boys on the spectrum. My eldest is doing quite well and has Asperger's, and has always talked but had a myriad of other deficits, including social communication. My other son didn't talk for 3 years at all. We did PECS (which we first heard about from his first speech therapist) for a while, which really worked for him until his speech took off. He now talks all the time, mostly with adults and a few peers. There is hope, I wasn't sure my little guy would ever talk or say mama either. Every kid on the spectrum is different though. Why the delay in speech therapy? Isn't there someone else your kid can see? We've never had to wait for speech therapy.


answers from San Francisco on

Hi H.,
I have a cousin who is now 8 years old, who has Aspergers. He is on the high end of the spectrum. He was diagnosed around the same age as your daughter and started in with all the various programs. The programs helped him tremendously and he has learned to speak very well. He is now in a mainstream second grade class! Of course he still has some big challenges with the social aspect but he is an excellent student and has many kids who like to play with him. When he was in preschool, he would not even react to voices - well, finally the director of his preschool program suggested that they have his hearing checked. Up until then they assumed his lack of reaction was due to the Aspergers. But lo and behold he had ear infections in both ears! Poor kid had to have tubes put in. Needless to say, learning to talk came a little easier after that.

Anyhow, I don't know where your daughter falls on the autism spectrum, but I wanted to share the story of my cousin, who has a form of autism and is doing really well. It is truly amazing how doctors and therapists are unlocking some of the secrets about autism and are really helping these kids achieve everything they're capable of. I am not an expert, but it seems like a good sign that your daughter is signing.

I wish you the very best. I know it was hard for my cousin and his wife when they learned that their son had Aspergers. But have faith, your daughter will take her own path and make you proud in her own way.



answers from San Francisco on

Hi H., I don't have much personal experience with autism but I'm just writing to say I'm so sorry, I know how terrible you must be feeling. All I can say is that you know there is a wide spectrum with autistic children, so there is great hope for your daughter. I know you will get some good advice.

Hang in there. -Page



answers from San Francisco on


I don't know if this will make you feel any better, but I work in a high school special ed program we have a class with autistic students and every student in class is verbal, they all speak well. They do lots of things well. Be patient incorporate sign with words. Our speech theropist said to sign and to over annunciate the word and to work on having them do the same. Good Luck



answers from San Francisco on

Hi H., my son was diagnosed about the same age, and we had pretty much the same therapies it sounds like you are getting. I'd talk to your regional center (ours was Golden Gate Regional Center) about getting more services or help getting into a diff. speech therapy program if you're on the waiting list more than a month.
It's good that she is learning sign language! That's often the bridge to verbal communication. Our son really did well with learning sign first, then vocalizing and signing together, then the signing faded away and he talked without using his hands. Get all the therapy you can, get pushy about it. :)
Our son did *so* well that he's now considered to be so high functioning that no one knows unless we tell them. He's 12 now. I'm not saying that will happen with every child, but you never know until you really, really try. :) You have to work as if you are convinced that she WILL be able to improve much more than any one expects or believes is possible.
One thing I'd *highly* recommend, Greenspan's book, The Child with Special Needs. I'd use his floor time model in addition to watching your daughter's therapy sessions and repeating them at home as best as you are able.
Before I forget, get her hearing checked. I can't tell you how many autistic kids actually have ear infections/faulty architecture that cause fluid build up and subsequent hearing and speech delays. It can go undiagnosed unless the parent pipes up and asks for a hearing test (especially of the ear drum, they send a painless signal into the ear drum and measure how responds. If it comes back flat, the child has fluid build up and may need tubes. It's just something to look at, but we know many cases where this has drastically helped a child if it was part of the problem.)

Also, consider diet... our son improved a LOT after going off dairy and wheat (gluten and casein)and a lot of other parents of kids on the spectrum will tell you the same thing. Again, it doesn't help every child, but it can drastically help some. (takes about a month or two for some to see the difference).
I totally know how you feel. *hugs* Don't give up! We prayed for a miracle too, so I know they still happen. You've got to be the biggest believer in your child's potential, because other people will work harder to help you the more involved and convinced you are. :)
Feel free to message me back privately, if there's anything I can do for you.



answers from San Francisco on

Dear H.,
I too have a daughter with Speech Delay. Though not diagnosed with Autism, she started into the County programs at the age of 3. I second the recommendation to get your local school district involved. They came to our house and assessed her situation and got her signed up for free Speech Therapy through the school district. She should qualify under the criteria for Special Education Services as my daughter does. I think that early intervention has been invaluable for her. She's now 6 and in Special Education Kinder. We plan on sending her to Special Education 1st, and then hope to mainstream her to a regular Education 2nd. She's loving learning, and talks very well these days.

I can't emphasize how important early intervention is. One thing I'm surprised at is that she's on the waiting list for Speech Therapy. That is not ok! I learned a lot going through the School System, and one of them hard lessons learned was to be absolutely inflexible about waiting for services that are crucial for your child. Speech Services are a right your daughter has with her diagnosis and is an invaluable tool for her as she learns how to communicate. Her frustration level will be vastly improved as she is able to communicate with others.

I know the heartache of wanting your daughter to talk. I am confident that with early intervention and the love you have your child she will have every opportunity to become a happy communicative little girl!




answers from San Francisco on

Hi H. -

First off, have hope. Your daughter is young, too young for anyone to know how big her deficit is. Many high functioning kids start off with a profound language delay. It is entirely possible that she has high-functioning autism and will go on to lead a normal life, so long as she gets intervention. I have a 17-year-old client who is applying to colleges right now -- he did not speak until nearly 5.

Contact your Regional Center -- http://www.rceb.org/ is their website for Alameda County. It is one of the best in the Bay Area, and will have resources that can help you over the next 15 years. Get to know them well!

Contact your local school district and request an IEP for your child. Jack Bannon is the Director of Special Ed for your district. Send a registered letter stating that you have a daughter with autism, and that you are requesting an IEP evaluation for her. The district is required to provide full services at this age, and must respond within 50 days to your request. THERE SHOULD BE NO WAITING LIST. If there is, they are 'out of compliance' and can be sued. They are required to provide services immediately!!!

Contact PACE in Santa Clara -- http://www.pacificautism.org/ This is an excellent resource, and will provide you with tons of help, resources, etc.

If you have the financial resources, and even if you have your daughter enrolled in an early autism program, continue to provide EXTRA services for her. There are some excellent private practitioners and centers that can help your daughter. Children's Health Council in Palo Alto is one such center.

You are not alone. There is lots of help out there -- if you need to talk to someone or need more referrals, look me up on my website (www.evolibri.com) and call me. Happy to help!


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