What sorts of challenges do autism students have with expressive language? What sorts of tools are teachers and speech therapists using to address these challenges? These are some of the questions for TQS.
What sorts of challenges do autism students have with expressive language? What sorts of tools are teachers and speech therapists using to address these challenges? What additional tools do people wish they had?
These are some of the questions that Katharine Beals, adjunct professor in the autism program at Drexel University, had as she and her colleagues began visiting programs around the country to explore challenges with languages in autism. Her goal: to learn more about these questions, and develop tools to fill in the gaps in what’s currently available.
Her work recently brought her to The Quaker School at Horsham, where she interviewed teachers, speech therapists, and Assistant Head for Student Affairs Miyoung Glenn about the challenges of working with students with multiple disabilities that affect spoken and written language.
“I was impressed with the spirit of innovation and openness I sensed,” said Ms. Beals, citing the Sassafras Program, our new highly structured, self-contained K-4 classroom that focuses on behavior regulation and social skill acquisition.
“I was also impressed by the school’s choices of what I know to be excellent language and reading programs—specifically, Language for Learning/Thinking, Wilson, Orton-Gillingham, Edmark, and Corrective Reading,” she said.
“Finally, I appreciated the school’s judicious use of technology—specifically, text-to-speech devices—to help kids get their ideas down in writing before taking the next step of editing them,” Ms. Beals continued. “This is a great way to reduce cognitive load.”
Ms. Beals’ visit is all part of the Research & Leadership initiative defined in our strategic plan, “Expanding Our Reach, Deepening Our Impact.” Over the next five years, we will work to establish research partnerships to help develop the next generation of expert educators and clinicians, and we will also partner with national and international experts to advise us on our program and ensure that TQS stays on the forefront of evidence-based practice.
Before her visit concluded, Ms. Beals noted an interaction between a TQS speech therapist and one of our students. “In this exchange, I witnessed one of the challenges the therapists had mentioned: difficulty with verb tenses,” said Ms. Beals. “The child who spoke fluently and apparently effortlessly, briefly slipped into present tense (‘am going’) when she was actually talking about the past. While she was clearly highly articulate, and while the tense error might seem like a minor detail, the speech therapist recognized this as a key thing to work on. After all, the goal with language instruction, as with instruction in general, is to transport students beyond the immediate ‘here and now’ world of wants and needs and into the worlds of past experience and future possibilities.”
Excited to see this interaction firsthand, Ms. Beals said, “I hope to be back in touch as our project continues.” And we look forward to partnering with more professionals, like Ms. Beals, as we work to achieve the lofty goals we’ve set for our school.