It was recently suggested by our son's doctor that he be evaluated for signs of Autism due to certain tendencies he has such as an underdeveloped speech ability. We have the appointment scheduled with the specialist however it isn't for another month. Until then I was wondering if anyone had any exercises or activities my wife and I could do with him to work on this in the meantime?
I would recommend that you do what you usually do with your son until then, not much more and certainly no less.
If the point of special exercises and activities would be to help him to advance in those areas in which he shows a deficiency, you might be skewing the results, which would not actually be in your son's ultimate favor. Let the specialist see the son you have, the one your pediatrician is concerned about. There will be ample time after the diagnosis is made (whatever the diagnosis is) to do special exercises and activities with your son.
If you want to do something that might be helpful to the evaluator, you can put together a montage of videos of the approximate age of your son when he achieved certain milestones: when he first smiled, laughed, said his first word, how he interacted with others, sat without help, walked, could pick up a cheerio, etc. etc. Since speech seems to be the primary concern, I would include plenty of examples of speech milestones (or age in the absence thereof).
You want as accurate a diagnosis as possible so that if he has a condition that would improve with intervention, he's more likely to get the treatment he needs.
At four and a half, our son was diagnosed with a rather severe form of autism and as "severely impaired" for speech comprehension and production. Today, he is applying to MIT with a decent chance of getting in, and being pursued by not only MIT, but most of the top 25 universities in the US. So my first word to you is - have hope. Do not let the word "Autism" scare you.
Second, lateness in speech is not the foremost indicator of Autism. A simple indicator that I sometimes share is what he looks at when you are talking to him and he looks at you. Does he look at your eyes or your mouth. Autistic children tend to look at the mouth, while non-autistic children tend to look at the eyes. Mind you, this is a tendency only, but more indicative of Autism than delayed speech.
Third, I encourage you to become an expert on your son's situation. Start maybe with the book "Late-Talking Children: A Symptom or a Stage", but read and read all you can about speech pathology and therapy. No doctor, psychologist, or therapist will ever put the love and care and time that you can put into helping your child. Traditional wisdom will tell you to let the professionals do the therapy so that you can concentrate on being the mom or dad. I say "bullhonkey!" If your child's biggest need is for help in learning to talk, your love for him requires that you be the first and foremost in taking care of that need. Make use of the professionals as much as you are able, but do not relinquish your role as teacher of language to your son.
Fourth, and to really answer your question, I would get some early readers, the ones with lots of pictures of objects with just one word on the page. Show him the object and say "apple", and if you can get him to say "apple" after a few times reading the book to him, awesome. Also, go on naming trips, make it a game. You pick him up and take him around. If he loves for you to run when he is in your arms, run from object to object to person, saying the names of things.
My wife designed a speech therapy regimen that included six sessions a day, each one a half hour. She did three of them, I did one, our oldest daughter did another, and a neighbor kid did the last. My wife prepared scripts for us to follow in talking with him.
Finally, let me ask you, how is he on physical contact with people. My son hated to be touched. With my oldest, I would pick her up and wrap her in my arms real tight. I am a big guy (tall, well built) and she was pretty well wrapped in a cocoon of arms, and I would tell her that she was mine. She would say "no, YOU are mine", and we'd go back and forth and break up into giggles. The first time I went to hug my son, he pushed away and made it clear he did not want to be wrapped in my arms. Hypersensitivity to touch also tends to go with Autism. Does your son display this?
I would recommend that you look for a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) while you're waiting for the Neurologist appointment and have them do a formal assessment of your son's speech and communication skills. The Neurologist will help you to ascertain what is going on with your child, but they will not be the one that works with your child on a weekly routine to bring their language and communication skills up to an age-appropriate level. That's the job of an SLP. You should still meet with the Neurologist; that is still vital to understanding the underlying cause.
A Speech-Language Pathologist, on the other hand, will perform an assessment that gauges your child's speech and communication skills and determines whether they are at a level that is appropriate for their age or whether they need work in some areas to bring those skills up to that level. With the assessment, they will know what areas to work on and design a coarse of therapy that build the right skills in the right sequence in order to maximize your time and efforts with your son. A good SLP will provide homework and include you in the therapy sessions so you can take those therapy activities home and accelerate your son's progress.
If you're worried about cost, most insurance companies will cover an assessment even though they may not cover speech therapy. If you're on an HMO plan, ask your pediatrician for a referral and check with your insurance. Some SLPs will provide a free assessment if your insurance doesn't cover the assessment. If you live in CA then the Lanterman Act and the local regional center will subsidize therapy for your child if they qualify and your insurance denies coverage for therapy.
So again, continue your plan to meet with the Neurologist but start looking for and consulting with a Speech-Language Pathologist. Regardless of the label your son may or may not get, an SLP will be the one to work with your child on their speech and language.
And finally, my wife is an SLP and like Agapwlesu said, there is very high hope that your child will work past any deficiencies (if they have any) and go on to be a brilliant and successful individual. I see it every day with my wife's patients.
I hope for the best for you and your son.
i have signs of autism and I still got a degree in Law. Dont let it put you off trying. The more you intervene and assist, the better the adult outcome.
I would suggest you start teaching sign language (BSL or ASL), that's what kick started our speech delayed child. By the time she saw the speech and language therapist, she had not only caught up, but actually overtaken where she should be, and didnt need SALT. She's only 30 months but today said to me "where are the pet treats, so can give few to sugargliders" - ok she missed "I" and "(a)" from "few" but far far ahead of where a 30 month old typically is. Reduces frustation too, as they can then communicate and be understood. Yo'd be amazed how quick they learn it. Ours was learning three or four signs each day.