Before Tucker I thought Speech Language Pathologists (SLP) simply worked with people on pronunciation. I was wrong. Really, really, really wrong.
One of my very favorite students, Bailey, decided to be a SLP. I asked her to write for me today to educate us all on what it is that SLP’s can AND DO do.
“You’re a speech and language what?”
As a speech-language pathology graduate student, I often hear the questions, “Do you work with kids? What else do you do?” Most everyone has heard of a speech-language pathologist (SLP), however many questions are warranted due to the complexity and endless career opportunities. Parents, teachers, children, aunts, uncles, and grandparents wonder what role speech-language pathologists have, especially with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the school system.
“Oh, you’re going to be a speech teacher, you can teach me how to talk good.” Well. I can teach you how to talk well.
Sure, SLPs are responsible for ‘fixing’ articulation disorders….er… helping a child say their r’s and l’s correctly. However, speech-language pathologists also serve children with a range of communication disorders such as language, fluency, voice, resonance, and swallowing. Right? Who knew a “speech” and “language” pathologist has anything to do with swallowing? Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders can also make up an SLP’s caseload for other aspects of communication. Furthermore, speech-language pathologists serve a wide gamut, from kindergarten on, with specialists serving the birth-to-3 populations.
A common misconception about speech-language pathologists is that our only focus is speech and language. The name even suggests it! However, SLPs are responsible for all aspects of communication (As we know, there is more to speech and language than producing sounds correctly). Children with autism often receive services for the cognitive parts of speech production, word meanings and word relations and what they stand for, social and peer interactions, and the use and comprehension of the language we use everyday.
Oh yes…we also provide services to the nonverbal child with autism, they have language too! Eye contact, body language, and turn-taking… we do it all.
In the school system, we play a role in a child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) by implementing benchmarks, short and long-term goals, and providing accommodations for students requiring extra aid to meet goals. Basically, we are known as communication superheroes. We are also responsible for the prevention, assessment, and intervention for children with communication disorders.
(FYI – This actually kind of looks like Bailey.)
Adapted from other colleagues, professionals in the field of speech-language pathology, and personal knowledge, I have developed a short list of “at home” quick-tips for interacting and engaging with children and adolescents with ASD. As you develop your own list and you notice something is difficult, does not quite fit, or is simply not working, switch it up the next time you encounter a specific pattern of behavior.
- Utilize visual, sequential schedules. Children with autism often do well with timelines, agendas, and routines. Exploit this in multiple parts of your child’s day such as morning, afternoon, and evening routines.
- Adapt, Adapt, Adapt. One technique that worked last week when a child was having a rough time, may not be the solution to this week’s troubles.
- Simplify your language. Often time, a 15-year-old with ASD may not understand the language you may use with a typically developing 15-year-old. Instead of saying, “When you’re done reading your science book, make sure to clean your whole room before we go out for supper with your grandparents, I want the house to be clean.” Try saying, “Please read and clean your room before we go out for supper tonight.”
- Do not provide overstimulation. As humans we try to help help help and fix fix fix. Sometimes, often times, straight to the point is better. Decrease noise, reduce distractors, and provide the individual and sole help the child with ASD needs.
- Verbal choices. Just like you and I, the question “What do you want to do?” is much more difficult to answer than “Do you want to go to the park or the pool?” A child with autism does better with choices and instances where the opportunity for confusion is limited.
As a speech-language pathology graduate student, I’m still learning. Different tips, different tricks, and different skills. All of us have learning to do. Whether we join support groups, read blogs, or search the web, we can all expand our knowledge and help advocate and educate for ASD.