This case study revolves around a young child, kept anonymous for privacy, who exhibited symptoms that made us delve into the question - "does speech delay mean autism?" The child came to our attention at 2.5 years of age, primarily due to her limited communicative abilities. Despite the child's proficiency in using basic words, reciting the alphabet, and singing rhymes, the mother observed that the child appeared to be isolated in her world, displaying behaviors unique from typical children.
Mild Autism with Speech Delay: Background and Early Observations
The child, the younger of two siblings from non-related parents working as software engineers in Australia, was closely observed by her mother. The mother, devoting her time as a homemaker, noted the differences between her children, expressing her worries about the younger child's development. When the child was 18 months, her mother sought advice from their pediatrician, who suggested waiting until the child was 24 months for a more comprehensive evaluation. The mother started encouraging her child's language skills and behaviors, closely monitoring her progress. However, she still felt that something was not quite right. This led her to return to India on vacation with the intention of seeking possible therapies. By this time, she had become well-informed about autism and the array of therapies available.
Evaluation and Autism Speech Delay Diagnosis
Our center's evaluation confirmed that the child exhibited mild autism with speech delay. The diagnosis was mild to moderate Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and the child demonstrated signs of echolalia, a repetitive speech pattern often seen in children learning to speak. She also seemed occasionally lost in her own thoughts. Considering our assessment, we proposed a speech therapy program, consisting of 3-4 sessions per week, spread across 3 months. We agreed to extend this therapy period if required after the completion of 30 sessions.
Speech Delay Autism: Treatment and Progress
The child adapted well to the therapy sessions, exhibiting a happy demeanor. It took just a few sessions for the child to adjust to the 30-45 minutes timeframe. By the 15th session, the child began to make basic requests, such as "give" and "no." Furthermore, her attention span lengthened to 45 minutes, enough for her to finish her tasks. After 30 sessions, the child was able to participate in sessions lasting up to an hour, with brief breaks given as rewards after each task. Seeing the child's development, we decided to continue with regular sessions for another month, focusing on enhancing eye contact, escalating verbal communication, and mitigating echolalia.
Transition to home-based program
As the family had plans to return to Australia, we offered a detailed home-based program. The mother had received exhaustive training by this time and was competent to work with the child independently. The mother regularly communicated with us, providing monthly updates about the child's progress, which facilitated ongoing goal setting and execution.
Currently, the child has shown significant improvements in her communication abilities. She is able to engage in conversations, displaying good eye contact. Echolalia has substantially decreased, with fewer instances of repeating sentences overheard. The child has successfully transitioned to attending a playgroup in Australia, demonstrating positive growth and social integration.
This case study underscores the effective intervention for a child exhibiting mild autism speech delay and associated echolalia. The combined effort of focused speech therapy sessions, a well-implemented home-based program, and the collaboration between therapists and parents, led to substantial progress in the child's communication skills. This included better conversational abilities, improved eye contact, and a reduction in echolalia. The united efforts of the therapists, parents, and the child contributed to the observed positive changes in the child's development.