Treating Autism: Let’s Talk About Speech Therapy

Helping kids with autism develop their communication skills is the goal

Some of the early signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorder in a child have to do with communication.

Children with autism may not understand or use gestures, like pointing or waving. They may be hard to understand or not verbal at all. They may repeat words or phrases they’ve just heard or have a robotic speaking voice. They may even use challenging behaviors instead of words or gestures to communicate what they want.

As you can imagine, not being able to communicate effectively can lead to other challenges that affect a child’s ability to learn, develop, and function in everyday life.

This is where speech therapy can help.

If your child is diagnosed with autism, your doctor may recommend speech therapy in conjunction with other complementary interventions like ABA therapy, which you can learn more about in Part 2 of our Treating Autism series.

This article, Part 3, is an introduction to speech therapy and how it can help your child with autism improve their verbal, nonverbal, and social communication skills, so they can better express their wants and needs and interact in meaningful ways with others.


Common goals of speech therapy

All children with autism have unique needs, so the goals of speech therapy can vary from child to child. In general, the common goals of speech therapy can be grouped into three areas: Improving spoken language, learning nonverbal skills, and learning social communication. Here’s more on each area:

  • Improving spoken language can range from helping a child strengthen the muscles in their mouth, jaw and neck to produce sounds and sound patterns better to helping them improve the rate and rhythm of their speech, use better grammar, and overcome the tendency to repeat words and sounds.
  • Learning nonverbal skills can start with helping a child develop pre-linguistic skills, like making eye contact, gestures, and other vocalizations and continue onto helping them learn subtle social cues in body language as well as using augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), such as gestures, picture cards, sign language, and electronic devices to communicate without speaking.
  • Learning social skills helps children with autism communicate in different settings and for different reasons. For example, speech therapy can help children learn how to communicate depending on who the listener is and follow social rules, like taking turns, staying on topic, and standing at a comfortable distance from the person they’re talking to.


What happens in speech therapy

Speech therapy can look different for every child, because it’s based on a child’s unique needs. In general, it can be one-on-one, with one speech-language pathologist (SLP) therapist working with one child, or it can be multiple children in a group setting.

During speech therapy, children learn through a variety of activities, including:

  • Exercises to improve fine motor skills and coordination
  • Games that work on language development and vocabulary usage
  • Stimulating a child’s senses, such as touch, taste, smell, and sight
  • Role-playing exercises to help children understand social cues and responses
  • Using devices like picture boards or tablets to communicate through technology

ABA therapy and speech therapy are similar in that they are both used to treat speech and language concerns in children with autism. They also both start with an evaluation of a child’s strengths and challenges that are used to create an individualized therapy plan.

The two therapies differ in how frequent a child receives therapy. Speech therapy is typically two to three times a week for 30 or 40 minutes each session. ABA therapy is more intensive with children receiving therapy for several hours per week.

If your child is enrolled in ABA therapy and receiving speech therapy at the same time, ensure your chosen providers are aware of each other so they can align your child’s therapy and goals for the best outcomes.


Finding a qualified speech therapist

A great place to start is the accrediting body for both audiologists and SLPs, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association or On the website, you can search for a provider via your ZIP code or address.

Be sure to search for a SLP rather than an audiologist, who focuses solely on issues of hearing and balance. SLPs provide expertise in a variety of areas concerning communication and swallowing.

Speech therapy services are often covered by health insurance plans when a doctor has stated the therapy is medically necessary.

Learning communication and language skills is vital for almost every child diagnosed with autism. Speech therapy can help.

If you have any questions about autism treatments, please speak up! You are your child’s best advocate, and our experts at The Behavior Exchange are ready to help ensure you’re successful.

We hope you found this article useful. Tune in next week for the final installment of our series exploring the top 4 autism treatments.





Ashvina attended University of Bombay and graduated with a Bachelors of Commerce. She got her Montessori Diploma in 1985 and taught ever since. Ashvina came to TBE in January of 2016 as Admin Assistant. During the years she got the opportunity to learn and work in different departments such as HR, Finance, Office Manager and Executive Assistant. Last summer TBE bought billing in house and her current focus area is Revenue Cycle Management. She is detail oriented and enjoys working with people. Ashvina volunteers to deliver meals to seniors and local shelters on the weekend. She loves to spend time with her family and grandkids. Ashvina loves her job because she enjoys hearing different points of view, and she feels her contributions help fuel the direction of our company.

Working with children comes naturally to Angela. Her mom was a special education teacher for 30 years and often had Angela join her for Take Your Child to Work Day. And in high school, Angela spent every summer as the nanny for a little boy with an autism spectrum disorder. It was this experience where her passion for working with children with autism started to blossom.

From there, she went on to graduate from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Sciences. She learned about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in a non-normative development class and from that moment knew that ABA would be her life’s work.

Angela moved to the DFW area shortly after and began working at The Behavior Exchange as a therapist. She worked on her Master’s in Behavior Analysis at the same time. A year after graduating, she earned certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

Now, as a Clinical Director at The Behavior Exchange, she brings a life-long passion to her work, holding a special place in her heart for children with limited language skills and working closely with families to develop healthy sleep habits.

Danielle’s passion for working with families is deeply personal and from the heart. Her younger brother has an autism spectrum disorder, and through their journey as a family, she found her purpose in life as an advocate for individuals with special needs.

After graduating from the University of North Texas with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies, Danielle began volunteering at The Behavior Exchange. She saw passionate therapists, meaningful change for clients, and families with hope for the future. After a summer of volunteering, she officially joined the team as Director of Admissions and found her home with The Behavior Exchange family.

With her extensive experience working as a client advocate with insurance providers, Danielle perseveres to help individuals of all ages and abilities receive the services they need to reach their full potential. She feels truly honored by each and every family who entrusts The Behavior Exchange to be part of their journey and is committed to the organization’s core values, mission, and goal of being a beacon of hope for the community.

Adam has always had a passion for helping individuals of all ages thrive and reach their full potential. He’s also an enthusiastic musician, songwriter, leader, and devoted family man, who has been helping children and team members grow with The Behavior Exchange since 2010.

Prior to joining the team at The Behavior Exchange, Adam was a mortgage loan consultant and grad student, pursuing his master’s degree in Education at the University of North Texas. He graduated in 2013 and also earned a graduate academic certificate in Autism Intervention. The following year, after years as a Behavior Therapist and seeing first-hand the power of ABA and the meaningful impact it can have on children and their families, Adam became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. He then commenced from the Stagen Leadership Academy after completing the Integral Leadership Program (ILP), a 52-week practice-based program designed to develop executives serious about transforming themselves, their teams, and their organizations.

Adam is truly grateful to be a part of a dynamic, inspiring and compassionate team, and he’s dedicated to bettering the lives of all children and their families through the delivery of the highest quality of ABA services, while supporting the amazing team at The Behavior Exchange.

Soraya is from South Africa and moved to Texas in 1996. She graduated from The University of Texas and pursued a career, at that time, in Education. Soraya taught at a Montessori school for a few years and then took on a leadership role.

During her time in the education system, Soraya realized her passion was to assist children with special needs. So she joined The Behavior Exchange as a therapist, transitioned into a supervisory role in 2017, and a year and a half later, was promoted to Clinical Operations Manager.

She quickly learned the ins and outs of ABA operations and scheduling and successfully collaborates across departments to ensure The Behavior Exchange continues to provide quality services to clients and their families. She’s thankful to be part of such an amazing organization and excited to see what the future holds.

You could say Walter’s career started when he spent hours as a young child drawing superheroes and coloring maps. This passion, along with extraordinary swimming skills, landed him a full swimming scholarship at Texas Christian University, where he graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Graphics.

During the next 13 years, his design and art direction skills, conceptual-thinking abilities, and marketing-savvy know-how were honed at a few prestigious advertising and marketing agencies around the Dallas area. In the mid 2000s, he helped his wife Tammy Cline-Soza (founder and CEO of The Behavior Exchange) create a unique and concise brand for her new business. From logos and websites to uniforms, brand voice and visuals, Walter has been the main creative force for all things The Behavior Exchange.

Aside from giving birth to The Behavior Exchange brand, Walter is helping Tammy raise two amazing, beautiful children, River and Sierra. In his spare time (the two minutes he’s got per week), you can find Walter illustrating iconic landmarks of Dallas and Texas or looking around for this next open-water swim. Once he gets back in shape.

After 20 years of building The Behavior Exchange, literally from the ground up,
Tammy couldn’t be more proud of the team, culture, and organization that it has become.

As a family helping families, The Behavior Exchanges looks for opportunities that will make the biggest impact and produce life-changing outcomes – for clients, families, and even for team members. Tammy believes that if a team, a family, a community takes care of each other, the possibilities are endless and the relationships built along the way can make life more enriching and challenges easier to navigate. You could say her goal has been to build a kind of utopia full of support, love, and expertise that brings the best services possible to the community and ensures more families have access to those services.

Tammy and her family have dedicated their lives to the mission of The Behavior Exchange and continue to grow, learn, cultivate, challenge, support, and create better models for success. To that end, she is committed to her own leadership development and actively participates in advanced training, mentoring, and deep self-exploration on how to live out her purpose to love and support her family and help others reach their full potential. She takes her position very seriously and tries to serve as a channel for what the universe wants to come to fruition.

She also loves travel, gardening, being creative, MUSIC!, tennis, yoga, meditation, journaling, reading, being in nature, adventures, and more than anything, spending time with her husband Walter and their two beautiful children, River and Sierra.