Autism and Early Intervention Speech Goals
Today’s post poses a question for all the speech-language pathologists out there who work with children in early intervention who have already been diagnosed as having autism. My question is this: when you are teaching these children to communicate, do you use sign language, pictures, words or a combination of either two or all three of them?
The reason for my question is because I recently spoke with a well-respected, seasoned colleague of mine who paid a visit to a local school in our area. While there, she attended an IEP meeting for one of our early intervention children on the verge of turning three. The IEP team wrote goals addressing all areas of need, one of them of course being speech and language. The speech goal included no mention of verbal techniques in the “methods” section of the IEP. The goal was focused only
on sign language as the key system of communication to be used with this child. The therapist supported her goal by saying that sign language is “always accessible” and pictures are not.
My colleague is not a speech therapist; however she and the speech therapist who currently work with this child have already been using a dynamic approach to language. They have presented her with a combination of sign language, picture communication and verbal stimulation. The verbal is always there reinforcing the signs and pictures. The child has responded to ALL three methods. She has a handful of signs and pictures that she uses both in therapy and with her family at home and she has recently started to imitate modeled speech, although her ability to initiate verbal communication is very limited. At the delicate age of 35 months however the team felt that they needed to give her every opportunity to communicate in any way she could.
At the meeting, my colleague voiced her concerns and recommended that pictures and verbal stimulation be added to the IEP. The therapist informed her that she did not believe in a “whole language approach” to communication, but reluctantly agreed to add picture communication because the family specifically requested it because their child has recently responded to positively to picture cues.
So now that I have presented the scenario, what do you think and how do you address communication goals for young children in EI with the autism diagnosis? I am looking forward to hearing your feedback and will be writing a follow-up post regarding this topic in the near future!