What is the difference between “speech” and “language”?
The title “speech/language pathologist”, which refers to the professional who helps people with communication disabilities, is often misunderstood.
“Speech” is coordination of the muscle movements necessary to talk. Speech is produced by the physical movements of the mouth (tongue, lips, teeth, palate) coordinated with the lungs and voicebox to produce sounds for others to hear. Some may refer to difficulties with speech as a “speech impediment” like a stutter or a lisp where the tongue protrudes through the teeth upon production of the speech sounds “s” and “z”.
“Language” is verbal and involves using words to form a message. The modes of communicating these messages can be through expressing thoughts, thinking, writing, reading, or understanding. Other modes of conveying language include nonverbal means such as body language, pointing, gesturing, and facial expressions.
People with autism will almost always be challenged by language and may or may not have trouble with speech production. Understanding the difference between speech and language allows people to correctly identify and work on the exact difficulties people with autism are experiencing.