Reading problems are the most common type of academic underachievement. Especially for students with dyslexia, learning to read and write can be exceedingly difficult. Dyslexia and related reading and language difficulties are the result of neurobiological variations, but they can be treated with effective instruction.
Effective instruction is instruction that is tied to student needs, as determined by diagnostic testing and evaluation. It is instruction delivered by knowledgeable and skilled individuals in a step-by-step fashion that leads to the achievement of desired outcomes or goals by targeting a student’s relative strengths and strengthening his or her relative weaknesses. Effective instruction also requires the ongoing monitoring of student progress to determine the ultimate course and duration of the instruction.
What is the Desired Outcome of Speech Therapy?
The main goal of speech therapy is to improve communication. Some of the goals of speech therapy might include:
- Improving coordination of speech muscles through strengthening and coordination exercises, sound repetition and imitation.
- Improving communication between the brain and the body through visual and auditory aids such as mirrors and tape recorders.
- Improving fluency through breathing exercises.
- Enhancing the learning of language through language stimulation and the use of language through positive reinforcement.
- Improving communication by helping a child learn another way to communicate which might include gestures, signing or augmentative communication devices (note use of these alternate forms of communication will serve to enhance speech development, not impair it).
Each child will have a different outcome depending on his or her particular challenges and abilities. The length of time in speech-language therapy depends on many factors such as severity of the problem, the frequency and consistency of therapy and the consistency of help at home.
The following therapies—also called “allied health services”—address symptoms commonly associated with autism, but are not specific to the disorder.
Most autism behavioral intensive therapy programs include speech-language therapy. With a variety of techniques, speech-language therapy addresses a range of challenges often faced by persons with autism. For instance, some individuals on the autism spectrum do not speak, while others love to talk but have difficulty using conversational speech and/or understanding the nuances of language and nonverbal cues when talking with others.
Speech-language therapy is designed to coordinate the mechanics of speech with the meaning and social use of language. Such a program begins with an individual evaluation by a speech-language pathologist to assess an individual’s verbal aptitudes and challenges. From this evaluation, the pathologist sets goals that may include mastering spoken language and/or learning nonverbal communication skills such as signs or gestures. In each case, the goal is to help the person communicate in more useful and functional ways.
The speech language pathologist can provide therapy one-on-one, in a small group or in a classroom setting. Therapists who work with children have additional specialized training.
It is part of federal law that students with special needs should have their strengths identified and described in their IEPs (IDEA 2004 Section 1414(d)(3)(A)). And yet, when I search the special education literature online, I find virtually nothing dedicated to identifying strengths in these students.
If a student is having difficulty in school, what they need is to have adults around them who see the very best in them, not just their deficits, disorders, and dysfunctions. I’ve created an informal 165-item strength-based checklist in my book “Neurodiversity in the Classroom: Strength-Based Strategies to Help Students with Special Needs Succeed in School and Life”. However, there are a number of formal strength-based assessments out there that should be utilized by special education personnel in identifying the strengths of students with special needs. Here are seven of them:
“Age of majority is the legal age established under State law at which an individual is no longer a minor and, as a young adult, has the right and responsibility to make certain legal choices that adults make” (National Center on Secondary Education and Transition, 2002). Thus, when people use the term age of majority, they are generally referring to when a young person reaches the age where one is considered to be an adult. Depending upon your state law, this usually happens at some point between 18 and 21.
Vision is the primary learning modality and source of information for most children. No other sense can stimulate curiosity, integrate information or invite exploration in the same way, or as efficiently and fully, as vision does. The child who comes into the world without a dependable visual system, or without vision at all, has to navigate through the incomplete messages received through the other sensory modalities in order to put a whole picture of the world together. The visually impaired child needs to determine how to organize this incomplete information and then respond to what may remain a confusing view of the world.
The child who is legally blind may not learn to do things by visual imitation, an integral pathway to learning during early development. Thus, her ability to understand basic life concepts, and the process by which most life tasks are accomplished and brought to completion, is seriously compromised. The visually impaired child who is unable to see the complex process of putting together a meal within the family home, for example, has missed invaluable understanding of what causes things to happen in life. Only through experience- based learning does the blind or visually impaired child gain the personal validation of what the world is about in a way that makes sense to that individual. By repeated opportunities for hands- on experiences, the VI infant/toddler begins to internalize the characteristics and properties of the world outside himself.
Without these essential pieces of information about the world, the ability of the legally blind child to develop effective problem solving skills, a cornerstone to cognition, is seriously challenged. The legally blind child is often left to depend upon the verbal description of the world given him by a sighted person whose view of reality does not match with what the blind person is experiencing (Santin and Simmons). Instruction specific to his disability is essential for the young child who is blind or visually impaired in order to meet his unique needs.
1. The dog can assist children with autism safely access different environment’s. This could help your child become more independent and also help with transitions, which can be difficult for children with autism.
2. The dog can be a calming influence and give a sense of security to your child.
3. The dog can actually help your child focus on academic and social tasks. The reason that this happens is not known by many trainers of these service dogs, but it is a good side effect.
4. The dog can be tethered to your child to prevent the child from wandering away, which a lot of children with autism are prone to do.
The behavioral challenges seen in children with Down syndrome are usually not all that different from those seen in typically developing children. However, they may occur at a later age and last somewhat longer. For example, temper tantrums are typically common in 2-3 year olds, but for a child with Down syndrome, they may begin at 3-4.
When evaluating behavior in a child or adult with Down syndrome it is important to look at the behavior in the context of the individual’s developmental age, not only his or her chronological age. It is also important to know the individual’s receptive and expressive language skill levels, because many behavior problems are related to frustration with communication. Many times, behavior issues can be addressed by finding ways to help the person with Down syndrome communicate more effectively.
Every child on the autism spectrum is unique, with different strengths and needs at different ages. It is the family’s challenge to cobble together an individualized treatment plan based on a wide variety of options, from speech and language therapy to applied behavior analysis, from medication to special diets. One intervention many families consider is social skills training. A lack of intuitive social ability is a hallmark of autism. Social skills training is aimed at addressing the challenges that result, and often plays a central role in treatment plans. But what does “social skills training” mean? What is it intended to achieve? And what research has been done so far to demonstrate whether it works?
When a child’s emotional needs get in the way of his or her education, a request can be made for an assessment to see if the needs are severe enough for Special Education or a 504 plan. Put this request in writing. If your child is already in Special Education, the assessment would find out if counseling should be added to the IEP as a related service.
Because Special Education counseling is to help students with their emotions so they can benefit from their education, when writing a request for an evaluation, use school examples. Areas might be grades and meeting grade level standards. School attendance, behavior, or discipline are other areas.