Children with speech delays and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder benefit from speech-language treatment services. Often, children in both of these groups are referred to our practice because they are not yet talking. So, what's the difference?


Children with autism exhibit some of the following characteristics:

Social challenges including:

  • limited eye contact and joint attention (communicating shared interests)
  • lack of interest in social games (ex. peek-a- boo); preferring to play alone
  • difficulty taking turns
  • difficulty recognizing facial expressions and understanding body language
  • challenges regulating emotions

Communication difficulties including:

  • difficulty responding to their name and following directions
  • limited use of gestures including pointing
  • delays using babbling, sounds, and words
  • repeating words or phrases over and over
  • difficulty using language to make requests and interact socially
  • using words and then not saying them anymore
  • using an unusual tone of voice, such as sing-song or robotic intonation patterns

Repetitive behaviors including:

  • hand-flapping, jumping, rocking, and/or spinning
  • focusing on specific interests
  • playing with toys primarily in atypical ways (ex. lining up cars, spinning crayons)
  • interest in only one part of a toy (ex. wheels on cars)
  • requiring consistency in their environment and routines

Child psychologists and developmental pediatricians typically diagnosis children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. More information can be found at

Speech Delay

Children with speech delays achieve early language milestones later than expected. Typical language development includes:

  • babbling at 6 months
  • using first words at 12 months and using at least 10 words at 18 months
  • using 2-3 word phrases at 2 years
  • using speech that can be understood by unfamiliar people 25% of the time at age 1, 50% of the time at age 2, and 80% of the time at age 3

Children with speech delays typically exhibit age-appropriate skills in other areas of development including:

  • responding to their names and following age-appropriate directions
  • using age-appropriate play and social skills
  • initiating communication using eye contact, gestures (ex. pointing, shaking head yes/no), sign language, or vocalizations

More information about speech-language delays can be found at

Children with speech delays and children with Autism Spectrum Disorders both make progress in theirabilities to communicate with their families and friends. Speech-language therapy can help children attain their communication goals through structured play activities. Family involvement in carryover activities at home can accelerate this progress.

If you have questions, reach out to your doctor or therapist to schedule an appointment or consultation.

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