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The Difference Between Speech Delay and Autism

Kids develop at different rates, and sometimes that means they might need a little more time to reach important milestones. For example, they may take a little longer to start talking than the average child. If your child is a little behind in speech development, don't worry—he or she is likely just fine. But if you're noticing other concerning behaviors as well, it's worth considering whether your child has a speech delay or autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Here's what you need to know about the differences between these two conditions. While autism and speech often go hand in hand - it's important to recognize the differences!


In this article we will discuss:


Speech Delay vs. Autism Key Differences

Speech delay vs Autism Spectrum Disorder: What is the difference?

Most children with a speech delay have no other developmental issues and will eventually catch up to their peers. Autism spectrum disorder, on the other hand, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects social interaction, communication, and behavior. While some children with ASD may also have a speech delay, others may speak quite early but still have difficulty with social communication. Autism and speech delay share some similar characteristics but are ultimately very different.


Here are some key differences between speech delays and ASD:

  • A child with a speech delay may be shy or withdrawn around others, but a child with ASD is likely to avoid eye contact and interactions with others altogether.

  • A child with a speech delay may take longer to start talking, but a child with ASD will often use few words or none at all. When they do speak, they may not use appropriate gestures or make eye contact.

  • A child with a speech delay may have difficulty saying certain words correctly, but a child with ASD will often use made-up words or repeat the same phrases over and over.

  • A child with a speech delay is likely to eventually catch up to their peers, but a child with ASD will likely need lifelong support.

Get professional help for your child's needs

Learn how speech therapy helps with speech delay and autism

If you're concerned that your child may have ASD, it's important to talk to your pediatrician. They can perform an evaluation and provide you with the resources you need to ensure your child gets the treatment they require.


How do you know if your child has a speech delay or autism?

If you're noticing any of the following signs in your child, it's worth considering whether they may have a speech delay or ASD.

Speech delay is common in children and usually nothing to worry about.

When children has delayed speech, they may have difficulty saying certain words correctly, but they will eventually catch up to their peers. They can even have conversations, albeit ones that may be one-sided. However, if you're noticing other concerning behaviors along with delayed speech, it may be worth considering whether your child has ASD. Some signs of speech delay includes:

  • Your child isn't babbling by 12 months old.

  • Your child isn't using gestures, such as pointing or waving, by 12 months old.

  • Your child isn't saying any words by 16 months old.

  • Your child isn't saying two-word phrases on their own by 24 months old.

  • Your child has difficulty saying certain words correctly, such as "wabbit" for "rabbit."

  • Your child speaks mostly in single words.

  • Your child has a hard time having conversations and often doesn't respond when someone speaks to them.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects social interaction, communication, and behavior. While children with speech delay has only one symptom (delayed speech), children with ASD often has multiple symptoms that affect their ability to interact with others. These can include:

  • Avoiding eye contact

  • Not responding when their name is called

  • Not pointing or waving to show things of interest

  • Preferring not to be held or cuddled

  • Not playing "peek-a-boo" or other games that involve turn-taking

  • Having trouble understanding other people's feelings or talking about their own emotions

  • Having repetitive behaviors, such as flapping their hands, spinning, or repeating the same phrases over and over

Most commonly, children with ASD will use few words or none at all. When they do speak, they may not use appropriate gestures or make eye contact. They may also have a hard time understanding other people's feelings or talking about their own emotions. Additionally, children with ASD often have repetitive behaviors, such as flapping their hands, spinning, or repeating the same phrases over and over. Thus, symptoms of ASD makes speaking and understanding hard for children. This makes them appear as if they have a speech delay, but it is not the primary symptom of ASD.


Since Autism is a spectrum, this means that no two people with ASD will have exactly the same symptoms. Some children with ASD may also have a speech delay, while others may speak quite early but still have difficulty with social communication.


There are three levels of Autism according to the DSM-V:

  1. Requiring substantial support: Children at this level have significant deficits in verbal and nonverbal communication skills, social interactions, and adaptive behavior (i.e., they are unable to independently care for themselves).

  2. Requiring moderate support: Children at this level have significant deficits in one or more of the above areas, but not to the same degree as those who require substantial support.

  3. Requiring support: Children at this level have milder symptoms and may only need assistance in one or two areas.

With these three levels, it is important to note that no matter which level your child is, they will still need support in some way. This is why it's important to seek out professional help if you think your child may have ASD. Early intervention is key for children with ASD, and the sooner you seek help, the better.

What are the causes of speech delay and ASD in children?

The cause of most speech delays is unknown. However, it's thought that they may be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.


ASD, on the other hand, is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and neurobiological factors. Research suggests that ASD may be linked to certain genes that affect brain development. Additionally, ASD has been linked to prenatal exposure to certain environmental factors, such as viruses or toxins. However, more research is needed to confirm these links.


Family involvement is important for speech delay and Autism

How are speech delay and autism diagnosed in children?


If you're concerned that your child may have a speech delay or ASD, the first step is to talk to your doctor. They can perform a developmental screening to assess your child's development.


If the screening indicates that your child may have a delay or ASD, they will likely refer you to a specialist for further testing. This may include a hearing test, genetic testing, and/or neuropsychological testing. These tests can help doctors rule out other conditions and confirm a diagnosis of speech delay or ASD.


Speech therapists can also help assess and diagnose speech delays. They can perform a speech and language evaluation to assess your child's skills. This may include tests of their receptive and expressive language, as well as their ability to understand and use gestures. It is important to note that not all children with speech delays will be diagnosed with ASD. It is also important to know your child's diagnosis so that you can seek out the appropriate ASD or speech delay treatment and support.


Treatment for speech delay and autism in children


There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating speech delay and ASD in children. Treatment will vary depending on the child's individual needs.


Some children with speech delay may benefit from speech therapy. This can help them improve their speech and communication skills. On the other hand, Children with ASD may also benefit from behavior therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. This can help them learn how to interact with others and manage their emotions. Speech therapy can begin in preschool, and sometimes before. If a child's speech delay or ASD isn't detected until later in childhood, therapy can begin then if it is found to beneficial. Additionally, some children with ASD may need medication to help manage their symptoms.


If your child has a speech delay or ASD, the most important thing you can do is to get them the help they need. With early intervention and proper treatment, your child can reach their full potential.


Speech therapy for speech delay and Autism Spectrum Disorder


Speech therapy is a type of therapy that helps people with communication disorders. This includes disorders related to speech, language, and swallowing. Speech therapy can help people of all ages, from infants to adults.

Speech therapists use a variety of techniques to help their patients improve their communication skills. They may provide one-on-one instruction or group therapy. They may also use exercises, games, and other activities to help their patients practice their skills. Speech therapy for autism can look different depending on the child's particular needs.


If your child has a speech delay or ASD, speech therapy can be an important part of their treatment plan. A speech therapist can help your child improve their speech and communication skills. They can also teach you ways to support your child at home. Although ASD is a complex condition, early intervention and treatment can make a big difference in your child's development.

When To Seek Professional Help

If you're concerned that your child may have a speech delay or ASD, the first step is to talk to your doctor. A pediatrician or a developmental pediatrician can perform a developmental screening to assess your child's development.


If the screening indicates that your child may have a delay or ASD, they will likely refer you to a specialist for further testing. This may include a hearing test, genetic testing, and/or neuropsychological testing. These tests can help doctors rule out other conditions and confirm a diagnosis of speech delay or ASD.

Speech therapy for speech delay vs autism

Once your child has been diagnosed with a speech delay or ASD, you can work with their healthcare team to develop a treatment plan. This may include speech therapy, behavior therapy, and/or medication. With early intervention and proper treatment, your child can reach their full potential.


If you're concerned that your child may have a speech delay or ASD, don't hesitate to seek professional help. With early intervention and proper treatment, your child can reach their full potential. If you think your child needs it, get them to a specialist as soon as possible for an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.


Benefits of early intervention for speech delay or autism

Early intervention is very crucial for every child who experiences speech delay or ASD. It is a process of providing support and services to children with developmental delays or disabilities. Early intervention can help children with speech delay or ASD in many ways.


1. Early intervention can help your child develop communication skills.

Early intervention allows children to improve their communication skills. This is important for children with speech delay or ASD because they often have difficulty communicating. A speech therapist can teach your child how to use words and gestures to communicate. They can also teach you ways to support your child's communication at home.


2. Early intervention can help your child develop social skills.

Children with ASD often have difficulty socializing. Early intervention can help your child learn how to interact with others. A therapist can teach your child how to make eye contact, share toys, and take turns. They can also teach you ways to support your child's social skills at home.


3. Early intervention can help your child learn self-care skills.

Self-care skills are important for everyone. Children with ASD may have difficulty with self-care skills such as brushing their teeth and getting dressed. Early intervention can help your child learn these skills. A therapist can teach your child how to perform self-care tasks. They can also teach you ways to support your child at home.


4. Early intervention can help your child develop fine motor skills.

Fine motor skills are important for everyday activities such as writing and eating. Children with ASD often have difficulty with fine motor skills. Early intervention can help your child improve their fine motor skills. A therapist can teach your child how to hold a pencil, use scissors, and tie their shoes. They can also teach you ways to support your child's fine motor skills at home.


5. Early intervention can help your child develop gross motor skills.

Gross motor skills are important for everyday activities such as walking and running. Children with ASD often have difficulty with gross motor skills. Early intervention can help your child improve their gross motor skills. A therapist can teach your child how to walk, run, and jump. They can also teach you ways to support your child's gross motor skills at home.


6. Early intervention can help your child develop self-regulation skills.

Self-regulation is the ability to control one's emotions and behaviors. Children with ASD often have difficulty regulating their emotions and behaviors. Early intervention can help your child learn how to self-regulate. A therapist can teach your child coping strategies for managing their emotions and behaviors. They can also teach you ways to support your child at home.

7. Early intervention can help your child develop cognitive skills.

Cognitive skills are important for thinking, learning, and problem-solving. Children with ASD often have difficulty with cognitive skills. Early intervention can help your child improve their cognitive skills. A therapist can teach your child how to solve problems and remember information. They can also teach you ways to support your child's cognitive skills at home.


8. Early intervention can help your child develop academic skills.

Academic skills are important for school and learning. Children with ASD often have difficulty with academic skills. Early intervention can help your child improve their academic skills. A therapist can teach your child how to read, write, and do math. They can also teach you ways to support your child's academic skills at home.


Speech therapist working helping child overcome speech delay

9. Early intervention can help your family cope with a diagnosis of ASD.

Receiving a diagnosis of ASD can be difficult for families. Early intervention can help families cope with a diagnosis of ASD. A therapist can provide information about ASD and support to families. They can also teach you ways to support your child at home.


10. Early intervention can help your family connect with other families of children with ASD.

Families of children with ASD often feel isolated and alone. Early intervention can help families connect with other families of children with ASD. A therapist can provide information about support groups and resources for families. They can also teach you ways to support your child at home.


This is why early intervention is important for children with ASD. Early intervention can help your child develop skills, cope with a diagnosis of ASD, and connect with other families of children with ASD. A therapist can provide information and support to you and your family. They can also teach you ways to support your child at home. Early intervention can make a difference in the lives of children with ASD and their families.


Not everyone has access to speech therapy locally. If you are concerned that your child may have ASD, contact us. Early intervention is important for children with ASD. The earlier that intervention begins, the better the outcome for your child. At Better Speech, we offer online speech therapy services convenient for you and tailored to your child's individual needs. Our services are affordable and effective - get Better Speech now.


Frequently Asked Questions

How is speech delay different from autism?

A speech delay differs from autism in that autism is a diagnosis given when several different communication/behavior factors are at work while a speech delay focuses primarily on the individual's speech without classifying it as a disorder. A speech delay could mean that an individual is behind in acquiring certain speech milestones, but it may not be considered a disorder diagnosis. Autism itself is a diagnosis that comes with several different behaviors/factors that often include a speech disorder or lack of speech milestones being met. The two are considered very different.

Can a child have a speech delay and not be autistic?

How to differentiate speech delay and autism?

How common is speech delay in autism?

How does autism affect speech and language development?


 

About the Author

Mikee Larrazabal


I am a Speech-Language Pathologist with 14 years of experience working with children and adults who have communication difficulties. I completed my Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science at Cebu Doctors' University and have been helping people overcome their communication challenges ever since.


I have worked with individuals of different ages, including toddlers, preschoolers, school-aged children, adults and seniors. I'm passionate about speech therapy and take great satisfaction in helping people overcome their communication challenges and improve their lives through better communication skills. In my spare time I like reading books, going hiking in nature and taking care of my dog Locas.

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