with autism benefit from the expertise of speech and language specialists
Alan Harchik, Ph.D., BCBA
of the primary goals of specialized educational and treatment programs
for children with autism is to address communication problems such
as the absence of speech, frequent repeating of words or phrases,
and improper intonation and rhythm.
readers of this column know, applied behavior analysis (ABA) has
been shown to be successful in improving a variety of behaviors
and skills for children with autism. ABA techniques such as using
positive rewards, teaching in small steps, prompting and assisting
in a structured manner, and measuring performance can be very effective
in helping children improve their language and communication skills.
in speech and language pathology (SLPs) are also an important part
of successful treatment programs. The fields of behavior analysis
and speech and language pathology have many characteristics in common,
and combining their methodologies can result in more comprehensive
and complete treatment. Their points of commonality include:
1. ABA and SLP are the treatment components most frequently requested
ABA and SLP therapists are highly focused on the individual, his
or her unique learning style, and the outcomes of treatment.
Both ABA and SLP address skill deficits directly by teaching specific
language behaviors rather than treating the problem indirectly using
specialized diets or sensory stimulation programs.
Both fields rely on procedures that are supported by evidence; objective
research that shows their effectiveness. Most therapists measure
the child's performance by collecting data to make decisions about
progress and potential changes in instruction.
behavior analysts know a lot about language, the different functions
of language, and how to create meaningful goals and objectives for
children. SLPs add to their effectiveness by helping them choose
small goals that build upon the current language behaviors (such
as vocalizations) already in the child's repertoire. The SLP helps
behavior analysts determine some of the "missing pieces"
of language - such as sounds and mouth movements - that the child
does not adequately demonstrate. In addition, SLPs can help determine
the developmental order in which to teach skills. This may help
some children learn faster.
overall language, communication, and speech intervention for the
child with autism should incorporate a comprehensive approach that
involves collaboration from professionals with expertise in behavior
analysis and speech pathology.
There are more and more instances of ABA and SLP working together.
For example, a new online publication, The Journal of Speech-Language
Pathology and Applied Behavior Analysis (www.slp-aba.com)
is now available. There are numerous speech and language pathologists
working in the field of autism who have also had extensive training
in applied behavior analysis. Parents may find that these individuals
are particularly well suited to treating their children.
to Karen Cahalane, M.A., CCC-SLP, speech and language pathologist
at the May Center for Child Development in West Springfield, there
are a number of important aspects of treatment that should be considered
as behavior analysts and speech and language pathologists continue
to work together.
pathologists need to work directly with teachers and staff to implement
good instructional procedures throughout the day and across all
kinds of settings and situations. We look for the SLP pathologist
to do "active consultation" - assess, demonstrate, and
coach teachers and staff. The pathologist will also need some one-on-one
time with the child to do specialized assessments and to try out
particular instructional procedures.
SLPs need to work closely with parents to ensure carryover activities
that can be done outside of the school day and throughout the week.
Third, to accomplish active consultation and parental collaboration,
SLPs need to develop and hone their own skills of teaching, training,
as children with autism enter adulthood, their need for language
and communication training will continue. ABA and SLP therapists
will need to tailor their interventions for this population. New
challenges, such as funding, will need to be addressed as well.
Harchik can be contacted in West Springfield at 413-734-0300, or
Institute is a national nonprofit organization that provides educational,
rehabilitative, and behavioral healthcare services to individuals
with autism and other developmental disabilities, brain injury,
mental illness, and other behavioral healthcare needs. May Institute
operates six schools for children and adolescents with autism and
other developmental disabilities, including one in West Springfield,
Mass. For more information, call 800-778-7601, or visit www.mayinstitute.org.
information presented on this site is intended solely as a general
educational aid, and is neither medical nor healthcare advice for
any individual problem, nor a substitute for medical or other professional
advice and services from a qualified healthcare provider familiar
with your unique circumstances. Always seek the advice of your physician
or other qualified healthcare professional regarding any medical
condition and before starting any new treatment.