The following excerpt is taken from Chapter Six of Pervasive Developmental Disorders: Finding a Diagnosis and Getting Help by Mitzi Waltz, copyright 1999 by O'Reilly & Associates, Inc. For book orders/information, call (800) 998-9938. Permission is granted to print and distribute this excerpt for noncommercial use as long as the above source is included. The information in this article is meant to educate and should not be used as an alternative for professional medical care.
Methods used by speech therapists (and by parents and teachers) depend on the problem at hand, and differ depending on the setting. For oral-motor Apraxia, for example, speech therapists in medical centers may work "inside the mouth" using Popsicle sticks, fingers, whistles, straws and other items to help the child gain control over the muscles of the mouth, tongue and throat. SLPs at school are less likely to do so, but may combine sound drills with adding speech activities to the child's regular classroom program.
For most children with severe communication disorders, one-to-one treatment is essential. Some districts try to cut corners by delivering speech therapy in a group setting. This works well for less serious problems or for speech pragmatics, but is not sufficient for non-verbal, Apraxic, or severely Dyspraxic children.
There are all sorts of ways to encourage the production of speech, and they can be integrated into ABA, floor-time, or other types of therapeutic systems. Perhaps the best reference available is Teach Me Language (SKF Books, 1997) by Sabrina Freeman and Lorelei Dake. Freeman and Dake mix speech and language concepts tailored to the specific needs of autistic-spectrum children with ABA teaching techniques, and their suggestions can easily be incorporated into home and school programs.
When doing speech therapy with children (and particularly with those who have PDDs), motivation can be a roadblock. Smart SLPs use speech games, flash cards, toys, hand puppets, and reinforcers of all sorts to keep sessions on track and encourage children to work harder. These aids are available to parents as well, through catalogs or sometimes directly from the SLP. Songs and rhythm work well with some people.
Your child may get homework, often in the form of worksheets with sounds to attempt. Ask the SLP how to make these drills more fun. Adults in speech therapy may have homework too, sometimes drills, sometimes mouth exercises with a mirror.