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Making A Real Difference

1 Feb






My friend was sitting at my kitchen counter yesterday morning. She hangs out while I work with her son during Fun Kitchen Fridays. He is learning life skills as we create a cookbook for independent living.  My friend told me that a jeep had just pulled up in my snow covered driveway. Dogs began barking as I opened the door. Flowers for me? Completely unexpected, but welcomed. The flowers were beautiful and smelled like spring on a cold winter day. The card attached read: Thank you for helping my Mom change my life. Love, K.D

The message was short. Simple. Sweet.

Yet, to me, deeply profound. I had what my son likes to refer to as “moist eyes”, as I read the card.

Over the past several weeks I have been consulting with K’s mom. K is on the autism spectrum and she needed help with school planning. Planning that would teach her, and challenge her, and benefit her….things that would make a real difference in the life of this young child.

For parents of children with special needs, many times the battles are great. Being an advocate is not easy work. There are set backs and disappointments, so when the battle is finally won the rewards are often bitter sweet.

Sometimes when life gets us down and everything seems to be going wrong, a small, simple gesture can mean so much.

Making a real, positive, difference in a person’s life. One day at a time.

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

Matthew 25: 44-45  NIV

Stakeholder Responsibilities

15 Apr

At Gibson Academy, we believe each stakeholder plays a vital role in helping all our students reach their full potential.


Parents/Family Members:

  • Participate in all meetings about their child’s education
  • Be trained in the proper use of the communication system your child will be using
  • Use the same communication systems and interventions at home to allow for consistency across environments


School Administrators:

  • Have a working understanding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act
  • Know what plans are being used with students in the school, assist with implementation as necessary
  • Attend all IEP meetings


Special Education Teachers

  • Understand Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act
  • Be responsible for implementation and compliance of child’s Individual Education Plan
  • Work with Speech and Language Pathologist, Occupational/Physical Therapists, Behavior Interventionist, Autism Specialist and any other school staff to insure student’s program is being met under both state and federal law
  • Maintain open communication with parents about their child’s progress


General Education Teachers

  • Read and have a working understanding of student’s IEP, including accomodations/modifications to be used in classroom, communication system, reinforcers, and consequences of behaviors.
  • Implement any accomodations/modifications in classroom per IEP
  • Consistently use current communication system for student
  • Collaborate with special education staff



  • Assist both special education and general education teachers in implementing IEP’s
  • Be trained in proper use of communication systems, reinforcment, and consequences for behaviors
  • Have at least a basic knowledge of Autism Spectrum Disorders


Speech and Language Pathologists

  • Be responsible for speech and language services for students
  • Ensure compliance with hours and services listed on the IEP
  • Works with both special education and general education teachers to implement speech and language goals on the IEP
  • Assists those that work with the student, in correctly using the communication system


Occupational Therapists

  • Be responsible for implementing occupational goals as stated in the IEP
  • Assist in obtaining materials that can be used in the classroom setting to further occupational goals
  • Assist in obtaining materials and objects that can be used for sensory activities


Behavior Intervention Specialist

  • Participate in IEP/FBA/BIP team meetings as needed
  • Assist in any necessary planning to improve student’s behavior
  • Assist school staff with implementation of Behavior Intervention Plans


Autism Specialist

  • Assist school in screening for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Participate in IEP meetings
  • Assist staff in understanding ASD and help provide interventions and strategies that allow for student’s success

Characteristics of Potential Candidates

15 Apr

Glennen, S.L., (1996). Handbook of Augmentative and Alternative Communication. pp.59-69. Singular.

Chapter three in this book discusses both augmentative and alternative forms of communication, and the various people that might find these types of communication beneficial.

Hanline, M.F., Nunes, D., Worthy, M.B., (2007). Augmentative and Alternative Communication in The Early Childhood Years. National Association for the Education of Young Children. website:

This was an informative article. The article talks about various AAC devices, developing AAC systems for students. and integrating them into the classroom setting.

McAfoose, L.R., DynaVox Systems LLC., (2004). Using AAC Device Features to Enhance Teenager’s Quality of Life. Assistive Technology Outcomes and Benefits, 1, 33-41.

This was an interesting article on the use of AAC devices with a 17 year old girl. The article talked about the device she used to communicate, and how it is important to be able to use devices, not only at school, but at home.

Smith J., (2012, March 15).Using Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Devices. Speech Buddies Blog. website:

The author discusses some of the various AAC devices available, and how to select the right device. She mentions that using an AAC device does not mean one is “giving up” on speech. The devices complement speech/language therapy.

Eric’s Augmentative and Alternative Communication

8 Apr

Eric Jones is my fictitious, eight year old, student that has autism. I created a profile based on a compilation of characteristics that I have observed in children on the spectrum. I will be referring to his profile throughout this blog post. When Eric’s parents enrolled him at Gibson Academy, they informed the staff that Eric was diagnosed at age four, with autism. He had a vocabulary of only a few words. His time at his previous school was spent between a self contained classroom and inclusion. His kindergarten and first grade years were chaotic and challenging. According to his parents it caused a great deal of stress and agitation for their son. They are hoping for a different outcome this school year, and want only the best for their son.

Eric Jones was given the Autism Diagnostic Interview-R along with the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule. (Lord, Rutter, DiLavore, & Risi, 2001) Conducting these interviews and observations allowed us to have an accurate understanding of Eric’s strengths and weaknesses in communication. They also allowed for a clearer picture of what Eric will be able to accomplish. Following this, we were able to create a comprehensive communication profile that will assist us in meeting Eric’s educational and vocational needs. The staff also completed informal observations of Eric, have spoken numerous times with his parents to better understand their perspective and what things they would like to see Eric achieve, his parents also allowed us to look at school records from their son’s previous school, as well as contacted Eric’s medical physician that has followed Eric since infancy.

Eric will require instructional strategies to foster his functional communication. We would like to see him be able to communicate in “real life” situations across all environments. That is the goal. The school staff, therapists and family will all need to work together to insure Eric’s success. We will help Eric to have a consistent routine each school day. He will be expected to use a schedule in each classroom and at home that will also help with his task organization. In the beginning a short schedule of two tasks at a time will be used. If Eric completes these two tasks he will be given a reinforcer. Since Eric enjoys numbers, we might consider a reinforcer that could somehow incorporate his love of numbers. We might consider time on the calculator, or math games on the computer. A visual timer will be used during the reinforcement time. Tasks will be increased in increments as Eric makes progress in using a schedule consistently. Consistent routines and schedules, predictability in his classes throughout the day, and consistent consequences will allow Eric the stability and structure that he needs. He will begin working on attending during class, learning cause and effect (might use an If-Then card to accomplish this), and relating to others (saying hello, I’m finished, or I need help). Eric’s teachers will be called on to make certain necessary modifications or adaptations in order for Eric to be successful in their classrooms. After a time, when Eric has mastered these objectives, he may not require as many adaptations. We will be calling on our speech and language pathologist to spend some of her sessions with Eric, working on his functional communication and pragmatics in his homeroom class. She will have Eric practicing his language and social skills with his general education peer group. This is very important, as peer interactions will be stressed in Eric’s plan. The occupational therapist will obtain fidgets for Eric to use throughout his day at school. We feel that these will help to relieve stress that Eric might feel in his classes. He will also be taught some self-awareness skills. When he starts to feel anxious, he can use some of the destressing techniques that he will be taught. (counting aloud, since this is a favorite thing to do, using a pack of number cards to flip etc.) It is expected that teachers will allow Eric to have sensory breaks or “time away” as needed. This preventative measure will allow Eric the opportunity to calm down, without having tantruming or out of control melt downs.

We might consider using a Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) (Bondy & Frost, 2001, 2009) with Eric, considering he is a visual learner, and has a limited verbal vocabulary. The pictures would be images of real objects. A portable electronic communication board, such as Go Talk, or Picture Card may also be an option for Eric. All of his classrooms would use labels and pictorial directions as often as possible in order to aide in learning. A picture schedule/calendar will be posted in Eric’s homeroom class, where he starts his day. This will give him a visual of what to expect during his school day, such as different special area classes like music, art, library or physical education. A minature version of this schedule would be on his clipboard. This would also be used to make him more aware of assemblies, or upcoming field trips etc. Undoubtedly, there will be some challenges that we will face, as is normally the case any time something new is attempted. Teachers will have to be reminded to be consistent with the daily schedules, and Eric will need to be prompted to use his schedule, and to take his communication system with him throughout the day. He will also need to be assisted, at least in the beginning, with making choices. We can help Eric with this by giving him more “real life” choices throughout his school day. Using incentives to help him make choices is a possibility. Since Eric tends to fidget with his fingers, or eyelashes, we might help Eric use more socially appropriate figits like a stress ball or putty as an incentive, these objects could help relieve his stress and feelings of anxiousness. The end goal is for Eric to “own” his communication, so it is important that he buys into whichever system he ends up using. We will work together to get through each of the challenges. We want to see Eric successful in his second grade classroom.

After six weeks of school the team will meet together to evaluate how Eric is progressing at Gibson Academy. Classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, therapists, and the principal will attend the meeting. Eric’s parents will be asked to attend the meeting also, as they will be able to give valuable insight into whether or not Eric is carrying over the communication skills he is learning, into his home environment. The group will discuss the positives that are happening with Eric’s communication plan, as well as any challenges. All involved, will be asked to brainstorm solutions to known challenges, in order for things to run more smoothly. Everyone is encouraged to think outside of the box. Questions to consider: Is Eric using his communication system consistently? Is he using it in all of his classes? Are there some classes he is having a harder time with than others? Why? What can be done to help him be successful? How is he doing with transitions through out the day? Is he requiring the same amount of prompts/reinforcers as he did in the beginning? Is Eric any more verbal? Is he initiating communication more often? Is he actively participating in more interactions with his peers?

Our hope is that Eric, over time, will be more involved in his classes, instigate more conversations, have more interactions with his peers and the adults in his life, and ultimately have an overall sense of purpose in his communication.


Bondy, A.S., & Frost, L.A. (2001). A picture’s worth: PECS and other visual communication strategies in autism. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine.

Lord, C., Rutter, M.A., DiLavore, P.C., & Risi, S. (2001). The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule. Los Angles, CA: Western Psychological Services.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication

8 Apr

Charlop-Christy, M.H., Carpenter, M., Le, L., LeBlanc L., Kellet, K. (2002). Using The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) With Children With Autism: Assessment Of PECS Acquisition, Speech, Social-Communicative Behavior, And Problem Behavior. Journal Of Applied Behavior Analysis, 35, 213-231

This article discusses the Picture Exchange Communication System and how it works. Data collection on the effects of the PECS system are also explained.

Millar, S., Scott, J., (n.d). What is Augmentative and Alternative Communication? An Introduction. website:

This article discusses augmentative and alternative communication devices. The authors explain unaided and aided communication, and advantages and disadvantages of each.

Mirenda, P., (2003). Toward Functional Augmentative and Alternative Communication for Students With Autism: Manual Signs, Graphic Symbols, and Voice Output Communication Aids. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services In Schools, 34, 203-216

The author poses the question of what ACC modality is preferable to use? And what do we know about voice output aids for people with autism?

Randle, K., (2005). Augmentative and Alternative Communication and Autism: A Review of Current Research. website:

The author discusses, current research on communication devices and the results of various studies. Different augmentative/alternative devices, were looked at.

Autism Is Not A Dirty Word (2)

2 Apr

April is autism awareness month. For those that have a family member with autism, they know all too well about autism. For those of you that don’t, I hope my blog post will help you understand a little bit more. I wrote this post about 6 years ago. I quoted a statistic of autism being 1 in every 150 children being diagnosed. In just a few short years the numbers have changed. Now, there are 1 in every 88 children being diagnosed somewhere on the autism spectrum (PDD-NOS, Autism, Aspergers and other pervasive developmental disorders). Just in the past two weeks a new study suggests that autism diagnoses could be as low as 1 in every 50 children.

Something is happening. More research needs to be done. More answers are needed. Now.

English: A "puzzle" ribbon to promot...


Autism Is Not A Dirty Word


As many of you might know I worked with and taught people with special needs for many years. (17 professionally as an educator and for 6 years before that as a volunteer, camp counselor and as a house counselor in group homes.) My goodness, have I been privy to some good stories over the years….some hysterically funny,some frustrating, some sad….but all interesting and good learning experiences for me. Well, about 6 years ago I had a kindergarten student enter my classroom. His entering my classroom began an adventure for me, an adventure that I am still on. You see this particular little boy with chocolate brown eyes and with skin the color of latte was my teacher. He taught me about autism by living out his story every day. When he first came into my life he was wild as a little animal. He threw himself to the floor in tantrums, he bit me, he was all the time spitting at me, he smacked me and he cried. I knew he was autistic but I didn’t know much about autism back then. I had never had an autistic student before in all my years of teaching. I remember one day in particular. This little boy was having a difficult day. We were getting nowhere. Finally, mid-morning, I told my teaching asst. to watch my classroom. I was going to take this child outside to the playground. I didn’t care that it wasn’t recess. We needed to get out of the room. He loved the up and down motion of the swing, it soothed him. So that is what we did. At this point I was mentally and physically exhausted. I sank down on a bench on the playground and tears rolled down my face. “God, I can’t do this! It’s too hard! He doesn’t understand me…and I don’t think he even likes me at all! I’m tired of the spitting and slapping and school has only been in session a few weeks. I just can’t do it.” These thoughts continued through my mind as I sat and watched him swing..back and forth, back and forth. Then I heard the voice…well, not audibly, but the voice was just as clear to me as if God himself was sitting beside me conversing with me. “DAWN, HE HAS AUTISM. IT IS PART OF HIM, BUT IT IS NOT ALL OF HIM. YOU WILL GROW TO LOVE THIS CHILD AND HE WILL BE SPECIAL TO YOU. RIGHT NOW I WANT YOU TO ALLOW ME TO LOVE HIM THROUGH YOU. ” What peace that came over me. Just like that. Now, those of you reading this might think I had some sort of mental breakdown or something that day on the playground. It’s okay with me if you think that…..but I know the Real Truth. From that day forward things changed. Sure, I still got slapped and spit on. There were still tantrums. The thing is something changed IN ME. Days turned into weeks, weeks to months, months to years. I worked with this little boy and he made progress…so much progress that other teachers were amazed by his transformation. I learned about autism and figured out his strengths. This child was intelligent in so many ways. His visual memory, and his spelling skills were incredible. He learned better communication skills so he didn’t need to tantrum, or slap anymore. He was special to me and to my teaching assistant. Yes, he was even a bit spoiled by us. He had come so far….and so had we. Later on, my supervisors gave me more students with autism because of my success with this little boy. Over the past several years I’ve become fascinated by autism and what having autism means to a person that is autistic. I’ve met autistic people, I’ve read and researched, asked questions, and had real relationships with children that happen to have autism. I’ve talked with their parents. I’ve learned a lot. There was another of my students that I also got in my room when she was in kindergarten. Talk about a stubborn little firecracker! But funny…I really enjoyed her in my classroom. She has become quite the artist at age 8 and has made so much progress. Sure, she is autistic….but that is only one thing about her. She’s so much more than that label. That girl is going places and I’m very proud of her.

Now, I’ve been touched by someone in my own family that just recently was diagnosed with autism. He’s four years old. He has big, beautiful eyes. He’s crazy about movies and he looks mighty sharp in his dress shirt and cowboy boots. His grandfather and I enjoyed spending time with him this summer. His journey is just beginning. It will be a long, hard journey. It is a road that at times will be frustratingly difficult. His parents will want to cry as they get bogged down in the mire of school politics. My heart goes out to them…..but this journey will change them, and make them stronger as they advocate for their son.

Today, one in one hundred fifty children is diagnosed with autism. That is far too many. Hopefully, one day doctors will understand what causes autism. Hopefully, in the future there will be a cure….but, in the meantime we can’t give up

This Calls for an Intervention

31 Mar

Imagine the frustration of not being able to talk or understand the meaning or context of words. The world would be a lonely place, thoughts trapped inside, with no way to express them. Good communication is the back and forth between understanding and being able to express those thoughts. Communication is important because everyone longs to be heard, and everyone needs to be heard. If a child is suspected of having an autism spectrum disorder, early intervention is crucial. Children who have ASD (autism spectrum disorders) benefit greatly from early intervention, showing better brain function as well as advances in their abilities to communicate and behave like other children, according to a new study conducted by Yale School of Medicine Researchers and published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. (Kearney, C. 2012) These first years of therapy can make a lifetime of difference.

There are many interventions that increase communication skills and promote independence in children on the autism spectrum. Brooke Ingersoll (2010) compares and contrast models…some of these models use an applied behavior analysis (ABA) approach, which incorporates explicit prompting strategies according to the child’s initiation and the developmental approach that does not use these strategies, instead choosing to focus on facilitative strategies such as adult responsiveness. (Hall, L.J. 2013) Each of these intervention strategies have seen success with the children that have used them. It truly is a matter of what the needs of the child are, as to which program might work best for him/her. The following list contains brief summaries of each intervention and how they work.

  • The DIR/Floortime Model- This floortime philosophy, developed by Stanley Greenspan, M.D, is an approach for parents and educators that fosters the development of the whole child by engaging and creating partnerships. (Hanna & Wilford, 1990) (Hall, L.J., 2013) The PLAY project is based on this intervention.
  • Responsive Teaching- This approach was developed by doctors, Gerald Mahoney, a clinical psychologist, and James McDonald, CCC-SLP. The responsive teaching method was developed to assist caregivers in maximizing the potential of each of the routine interactions with children (Mahoney & McDonald, 2007) (Hall, L.J, 2013) Joint activities between parent and child are used in this intervention.
  • The Hanen Program- This program was developedd in 1975 by Ayala Hanen Manolson, a Canadian speech and language pathologist. Her focus was on helping parents communicate with their severely language delayed children. More Than Words is based on the Hanen Program.
  • Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)- This intervention is a trademark of Gutstein, Sheely, and associates. (Gutstein & Sheely, 2004) Steven Gutstein (2009) describes RDI as an approach that uses methods that are continually evolving to address the information processing disability of individuals with autism spectrum disorders, by carefully building dynamic intelligence. (Hall, L.J, 2013) Spotlighting and framing are two strategies based on RDI concepts.
  • Enhanced Milieu Teaching- The Milieu Teaching focuses on increasing the number of opportunities for teaching new skills by “eliciting communication through environmental arrangement, the mand model, and time delay procedures” (Yoder and Warren, 1993 p.46) (Hall, L.J, 2013) Strategies based on this intervention are the mand model (verbal communication that functions as a request), and time delay.
  • The Denver Model/Early Start Denver Model- This model is multidisciplinary. It is used with young children that have autism. It started as a federally funded program in 1981. Almost all the therapies based on this intervention used play. Play is one of the most powerful cognitive and social learning tools (Rogers et al., 2001; Rogers & Lewis, 1989) (Hall, L.J, 2013)
  • Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT)- This treatment uses both applied behavior analysis and a developmental approach. Five pivotal areas are covered, motivation, responsivity to multiple cues, self-management, self-initiations, and empathy. (Koegel, Openden, et al., 2006) (Hall, L.J, 2013)
  • The SCERTS Model- This model is fairly new, and takes a multidisciplinary approach. This model covers three main areas. Social communication, emotional regulation, and transactional supports. (Prizant et al., 2006b) (Hall, L.J, 2013) This model takes into account the interaction styles and needs of the child, the family and professional team.

When working with these interventions, pull out (one on one/small group) language and speech sessions are helpful because of the focus on that individual child. Yet, pull out sessions should not be the only time these interventions are used. Pull out sessions are not enough. Children with autism spectrum disorders need to spend time with their peer group. Peer interaction would be considered an important component of social-emotional development. (Hall, L.J, 2013) Classmates are models for both communication and social interactions, which the child with ASD needs. It is appropriate and necessary that the speech and language pathologist work with the child in that child’s classroom among their peers.

Not being able to communicate would be frustrating and debilitating for both the individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder and his/her caregivers. The intervention therapies that have been mentioned in this post, can make a huge difference in the lives of children on the autism spectrum and their families. When intervention is successful, a whole new world is opened up for them and the future looks brighter.


Greenspan, S.I., & Wieder, S. (2006). Engaging autism: Using the floortime approach to help children relate, communicate, and think. Cambridge, MA: De Capo Lifelong Books.

This book explains the floortime philosophy, and how this helps foster development of the child.

Gutstein, S.E., & Sheely, R.K. (2002a). Relationship development intervention with young children: Social and emotional development activities for Asperger syndrome, autuism, PDD,and NLD. New York: Jessica Kingsley.

This book explains the RDI philosophy, and assists parents in developing a relationship with their child with ASD.

Hall, L.J. (2013). Autism Spectrum Disorder: From Theory to Practice, Second ed. Pearson.

A book that covers all the different aspects of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

The Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental and Learning Disorders with DIR®Floortime TM information

Ingersoll, B., & Dvortcsak, A. (2010b). Teaching social communication to children with autism: A practitioner’s guide to parent training. New York. Guilford.

This book discusses techniques that parents can use to help their child communicate. There are direct techniques such as prompting and reinforcing that are taught.

Kearney, C. (2012, November 7). Early Intervention for Autism Shows Major Brain Changes. website:

Children with ASD benefit greatly from early intervention. This article discusses Pivotal Response Treatment in children between the ages of two to five years old. Magnetic resonance imaging was taken of the children’s brains that were using this intervention therapy.

Koegel, R.L., & Koegal L.K. (2006). Pivotal response treatments for autism: Communication, social, and academic development. Baltimore. Brookes.

This book discusses Pivotal Response Treatment. This particular model uses both applied behavior analysis and the developmental approach.

Mahoney, G., & MacDonald, J. (2007). Autism and developmental delays in young children: The responsive teaching curriculum for parents and professionals. Austin, TX: Pro-ed.

Prizant, B.M., Wetherby, A.M., Rubin, E., Laurent, A. C., & Rydell, P.J. (2006b). The SCERTS model: A comprehensive educational approach for children with autism spectrum disorders: Volume II, Program planning and intervention. Baltimore, MD: Brookes.

This book explains the SCERTS model. The three main areas that this model covers are social-communication, emotional regulation, and transactional supports.

Rogers, S.J., & Dawson, G. (2010). Early Start Denver Model for young children with autism: Promoting language, learning and engagement. New York: Guilford.

This book explains the Early Start Denver Model. This intervention presents activities through play, and social games.

Communication Interventions

31 Mar

Bolick, T. Ph.d, (n.d). The Growing Need for Psychologists in the Intervention for Autism Spectrum/Pervasive Developmental Disorders. NH Psychological Association Newsletter

The doctor discusses some statistics about autism. She goes on to discuss interventions that focus on communication skills, social awareness, daily living skills, play and coping skills. She believes effective intervention is possible if everyone works together. This includes, teachers, parents/family, therapists, physicians, and psychologists.

Corsello, C.M Ph.d, (2005). Early Intervention in Autism. Infants & Young Children, 18, 74-85

In this article the author discusses that early intervention of children with autism is critical. She believes that more research needs to be done on the interventions that are already in use. This article compares the interventions, especially looking at the birth to age three group.

Kearney, C. (2012, November 7). Early Intervention for Autism Shows Major Brain Changes. website:

Children with ASD benefit greatly from early intervention. This article discusses Pivotal Response Treatment in children between the ages of two to five years old. Magnetic resonance imaging was taken of the children’s brains that were using this intervention therapy.

Smith, T., (1999). Outcome of Early Intervention for Children With Autism. Clinical Psychology:Science and Practice, 6, 33-49

This article discusses whether or not the gain in IQ points with the use of early intervention techniques is accurate. The writer suggests that findings need to be interpreted cautiously. This article is over ten years old, and it is interesting reading this in light of some of the newer data that has been gathered concerning autism interventions and therapies.

The Autism Education Network. (2013). Autism Interventions. website:

This article discusses some of the more prevalent types of interventions that are used with individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

Walsh, N. (2009, November 30). Home-Based Early Intervention Benefits Autism Outcomes. website:

This article is about early intervention using the Early Start Denver Model. This model integrates applied behavior analysis with relationship-based approaches. After one year, it is claimed, that the children involved in this early intervention therapy increased their IQ by 15.4 points, as opposed to the control group which was only 4.4 points.

Characteristic Checklist/Autism

25 Mar

Is your child nonverbal? Or have you noticed that the language he/she does have, doesn’t sound quite “right”? Do you believe your child is not reaching age appropriate milestones? If this is the case, your child might have a language or communication disorder.

Kyla Boyse, a registered nurse at the University of Michigan Health System, says,If your child is not on track with the following speech/language development milestones, you should talk to your pediatrician.” (Boyse, K. R.N, University of Michigan Health System. 2012) Speech and language milestones for a typical child are as follows:

Age Language Level
Birth Cries
2-3 months Cries differently in different circumstances; coos in response to you
3-4 months Babbles randomly
5-6 months Babbles rhythmically
6-11 months Babbles in imitation of real speech, with expression
12 months Says 1-2 words; recognizes name; imitates familiar sounds; understands simple instructions
18 months Uses 5-20 words, including names
Between 1 and 2 years Says 2-word sentences; vocabulary is growing; waves goodbye; makes “sounds” of familiar animals; uses words (like “more”) to make wants known; understands “no”
Between 2 and 3 years Identifies body parts; calls self “me” instead of name; combines nouns and verbs; has a 450 word vocabulary; uses short sentences; matches 3-4 colors, knows big and little; likes to hear same story repeated; forms some plurals
Between 3 and 4 years Can tell a story; sentence length of 4-5 words; vocabulary of about 1000 words; knows last name, name of street, several nursery rhymes
Between 4 and 5 years Sentence length of 4-5 words; uses past tense; vocabulary of about 1500 words; identifies colors, shapes; asks many questions like “why?” and “who?”
Between 5 and 6 years Sentence length of 5-6 words; vocabulary of about 2000 words; can tell you what objects are made of; knows spatial relations (like “on top” and “far”); knows address; understands same and different; identifies a penny, nickel and dime; counts ten things; knows right and left hand; uses all types of sentences

(Boyse, K. R.N, University of Michigan Health System. 2012)

If you notice that your infant is not babbling or cooing, or your toddler is not imitating familiar sounds or is not beginning to build a vocabulary, it is possible that your child might need to be evaluated for a language disorder. If your two year old is not combining a noun and a verb in conversation, or is not interested in hearing stories, or can’t identify any of his/her body parts you should see about having them evaluated. By the ages of three and four a typical child is well on their way to a one thousand word vocabulary.

A language or communication disorder occurs when an individual either does not understand what someone is telling him/her, receptive language, or is unable to share their thoughts or feelings in words which is expressive language. (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. n.d.) Communication is a constant back and forth of both understanding and expressing language.

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders will, most likely, have language delays. Their delays will be in both receptive and expressive language.

This is a checklist of language delay characteristics to look for if you suspect your child might have a language disorder.

  1. Does the infant follow the gaze of his/her caregiver?

  2. Does the infant engage in a shared focus on objects or other people, coordinated joint attention? (Adamson & Chance, 1998)

  3. Does the child point at objects to show interest or desire for that object?

  4. Does the child attend to speech ( Osterling & Dawson, 1994; Paul & Sutherland, 2005) and is he/she communicating with others around him/her?

  5. Does the child repeat language, echolalia, (Fay, 1980b) in unusual ways?

  6. Does the child have a one thousand word vocabulary between the ages of three and four?

  7. Is the child having a difficult time understanding and correctly using pronouns? (Fay, 1980b) Is he/she confused by gender?

  8. Is the child talking in a mechanical or wooden sounding, voice? (Fay, 1980b; Tager-Flusberg et al., 2011)

  9. Does the child perseverate on a favorite topic, not appearing to care if others lose interest in the topic?

  10. Does the child understand pragmatics knowing the context of language? (Tager-Flusberg et al., 2011) Does he/she understand the nuances of language ? Does he/she understand jokes, sarcasm, or social cues? Is he/she very literal with his/her language?

The language characteristics that are mentioned above are predictors of a language disorder. If any of these issues describe your child, he/she should be evaluated by a professional. Early intervention is extremely beneficial to those children with language disorders.


Adamson, L. B., & Chance, S. E. (1998). Coordinating attention to people, objects, and language. In A. M. Wetherby, S. F. Warren, & J. Reichle (Eds.), Transitions in prelinguistic communication  (pp. 15-38). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes

What Is Language? What Is Speech?

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (n.d). What is Language? What is Speech?. website:

This article helps to explain the difference between speech and language disorders.

Speech and Language Delay and Disorder: Your Child: University of Michigan Health System

Boyse, K, R.N. for the University of Michigan Health System. (2012, November). Speech and Language Delay and Disorder. website:

Ms. Boyse discusses the milestones in child speech and language development.

Dawson et al 2004 Dev PSychology.pdf

Dawson,G., Toth, K., Abbott, R., Osterling, J., Munson, J. Estes, A., Liaw, J.(2004). Early Social Attention Impairments in Autism: Social Orienting, Joint Attention, and Attention to Distress. Developmental Psychology, 40, 271-283

Failure to attend to speech is a strong predictor of autism.

Hall, Laura J., (2013). Autism Spectrum Disorder: From Theory to Practice. Pearson Education, Inc.

References to Paul & Sutherland, 2005, Fay 1980b, and Tager-Flusberg, 2011 were found on page 174 in chapter eight, Focus on Communication. These references were used when discussing language delay characteristics.

Graduate Level Class

19 Mar

To all my readers,

I am currently taking a graduate level class on speech and language development in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. I will be using my blog once or twice a week to post my writing assignments. I realize that this is a bit more in depth than you are used to reading from me, but who knows you might learn something new and interesting!

Thanks for taking the time to read:)


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