Independent Speech and Language therapist, Jacqui Wright, has over 22 years experience in South Africa, the U.S.A. and the UK. She is author of ‘Cracking the Literacy Puzzle’, RCSLT Bulletin, March 2006. Here, Jacqui from Childhood Communication Consultancy, based in Carlton, discusses strategies for children with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.

Childhood Communication Consultancy (CCC) specialises in assessing and treating children ages 0-19 years old with speech, language, listening, literacy, learning and social communication difficulties. The aim of the assessment is to discover where the breakdown is occurring, to what extent: mild-moderate-severe, to treat this and also advise on strategies to support the child. We have reviewed the processes that occur for effective communication and various disorders in the processing model:

Language, Literacy & Sensory Disorders

There is an overlap of difficulties between the disorders: ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), language and semantic disorders, dyslexia, dyspraxia, pragmatic language disorder (how language is used in context), autistic spectrum disorders and Asperger’s syndrome.

Intervention and management for Autistic spectrum disorders and Asperger’s syndrome will depend on the child’s particular level of need. Recognising the autistic signs and symptoms early is important for selecting the right strategies for individualised education programmes, structural support and therapy. This will decrease stress on the child and family, minimise behavioural problems and maximise the child’s progress. The goal is to generalise gains in communication, behaviour, social skills and education across settings. Some of the commonly used structural support and therapies include:

  • Specialist teaching approaches: TEACCH
  • Specialist communication system: PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System)
  • Behaviour modification: ABA (Applied Behavioural Analysis)
  • Speech and Language therapy (including Intensive interaction)
  • Sensory integration Occupational therapy
  • Music therapy
  • The Listening Program

For children with Autism or Asperger’s syndrome who are integrated with support in a Mainstream school, the following are basic strategies that need to be considered and implemented if appropriate to a particular child:

  • Providing clear structure and a set daily routine through the use of a ‘picture board’. Allowing the child time to process what has happened (i.e. play ‘finished’), move to the next activity (transitioning), do the next activity (snack ‘now’).
  • Providing advanced warning of any impending change to the daily routine.
  • Using clear and unambiguous language i.e. avoid humour, irony, sarcasm, idioms.
  • Using the chikl’s name, gaining his/her attention, repeating short instructions, and giving time to process the information between repetitions. Sitting the child close to the teacher and/or an adult member of staff to support listening.
  • Consistent approach of all staff to clear boundaries for behaviour i.e. recognising anxiety and anger triggers and taking preventative steps before an outburst occurs.
  • Multi-sensory approach to learning i.e. visual, kinaesthetic, auditory.
  • Specific teaching of social rules and social communication skills.
  • Minimising distractions that can keep the child from learning i.e. light, sounds, colours, noise. To provide a booth or ‘distraction free’ learning area.
  • Allow the child movement to enhance sensory integration throughout the school day (Sensory circuits will be discussed further in the next OVL issue with sensory processing).
  • Allow the child to withdraw to a quiet area to minimise sensory input when feeling overwhelmed i.e. in the corner have a ‘quiet reading area’ with soft cushions, books and a mini tent or cover to crawl under.
  • Link the academic work to the child’s interests to help generalise learning i.e. use the computer and internet.
  • Support peer interactions at break and lunch times.

If you would like to know more about Autism and Asperger’s syndrome relating to your child or any aspect of communication, please contact Jacqui.