Research suggests that that 2%-7% of deaf children also have an ASD diagnosis. It is also common that a child will receive a hearing loss diagnosis before their autism diagnosis. Because of this, valuable time in early intervention may be lost for this group of children. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association offers to suggestions to improve clinical care in this population.
First, more interprofessional education and collaboration is needed. Audiologists play an important role in identifying markers associated with ASD, and separate these behaviors from those commonly seen with reduced hearing. Therefore, they are a valuable asset in routing the child toward an autism evaluation if needed. Secondly, the support and use of autism-informed approaches to collect data during hearing evaluations is needed. These tests in young children rely heavily on behavioral thresholds, and these should be adjusted for those with ASD. Using evidenced based interventions, such as video modeling, picture schedules, and other visual supports may help Audiologists gain a more accurate measure of child’s hearing abilities.
When an Audiologist uses these strategies, they improve life outcomes for the children with ASD and hearing loss by helping them access early intervention. We know it takes a village, and an Audiologist is a key, but often overlooked, player in advocating for those with ASD.