ABA Therapy vs Speech Therapy

Autism is much more than just a speech impairment.


Many parents think that if their child does not start speaking normally at an appropriate age, then it means that child has a problem expressing themselves and requires help with their speaking skills (via speech therapy). However, if the child has autism, this is merely a syndrome of a deeper underlying problem. The child with autism may not speak because he does not understand the concept of communicating and has no desire to communicate with people.
Just as training a newborn baby on how to run is premature, training an autistic child on verbal communication techniques when he has not even understood the purpose of communicating is counter-productive. Instead, the child needs special guidance to overcome his foundational difficulties in social interaction, flexibility of thinking, communications and motivation as early as possible. This is where ABA-VB shines.
This is part of what the child will learn during ABA-VB sessions:
  • • Behavioral treatment to decrease problem behaviors and to increase functional alternative behaviors.
  • • Joint attention intervention to teach a child to start or respond to the social requests of other people.
  • • Modeling by adults or peers to demonstrate suitable behaviors to imitate.
  • • Schedule training to help the child learn to follow a task list (which can be picture- or word-based) in order to complete a series of activities.
  • • Self-management training for the child to regulate his behavior by recording and taking control of his own behaviors.
  • • Naturalistic teaching strategies to help a child learn functional skills in the environment that he frequently encounters.
  • • Story-based interventions to help a child learn suitable behaviors for different situations, and see other people’s perspectives.
Although speech therapy overlaps with some of the functions of ABA-VB, speech therapy has a narrower focus. It targets verbal communication skills such as articulation, syntax and the correct use of language. However, it does not address issues such as motivation, temper tantrums, toileting and other behavioral problems.
Therefore intensive intervention is much more likely to create long-lasting change in the child compared to speech therapy. However, speech therapy does have its benefits, but only when used at the correct time. For example, speech therapy can be used for refining verbal communications skills, after intensive early intervention with ABA/VB has first provided a firm foundation for the developing child.
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