I am a mom of a 3 year old boy who is diagnosed with mild autism. He does not speak at all but he can say random sounds (no words or approximations). He communicates with me by pointing or by grabbing my hand and taking me to the item that he wants.
He started speech therapy three months ago. The only thing that the speech therapist worked with him on was produce syllables through using songs with rhyming words. She said that goal was to teach him to produce sounds and syllable. She did not work on communication, but on articulation. My son did not show any progress and so I stopped the sessions.
Then, I went to another therapist. She told me that the previous speech therapy program was not the best choice for him because his auditory skills are not mature enough to work on listening and that it is better she works with him on other senses which are tactile and visual to help him feel and see how the sound is produce so that he can imitate. Again, the focus will be on articulation.
I was confused between the two previous therapists’ approaches and so I asked for a third opinion. The third therapist told me that both approaches were used inappropriately because both were used only to focus on articulation/production of sounds and not on communication which is my child's main problem. All senses should be used, but not in that way only to work on producing sounds. She recommended that I work on language stimulation and she gave me strategies (e.g., use natural everyday routines to stimulate making requests). She also recommended using an alternative communication system such as the PECS or a speech generating device to support functional communication. I told her that this will make my son depend on the pictures which will negatively affect his ability to speak. She answered me that on the contrary this will stimulate his communication and speaking if he has the ability to speak because the pictures work as visual cues to prompt him to say the words, if PECS was used the right way. She added that the focus should be on helping the child express his wants and needs regardless of the mode of communication that he uses and with therapy -if he has the ability to speak- speech will come with communication. She focused on the importance of starting therapy as soon as possible and we do not wait till he can produce sounds and syllables to make words and then teach him how to communicate.
Well, I am more confused now because I have completely three different opinions. What should I focus on when working with my son? and why?
I appreciate your help!!
P.S I do not live in the USA.