Tag Archives: Autism Spectrum

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, a time to raise awareness about communication disorders and the Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists who provide treatment.

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A Speech-Language Pathologist (a.k.a. Speech Therapist) is a professional who evaluates and treats children and adults with speech and language delays or disorders. On the hearing side of things, an Audiologist is a person who provides diagnosis and rehabilitation of hearing loss.

I have worked as a pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) for nearly 12 years now. I learned a lot in school to help me with my profession, but my real education has come from everyday experiences in working with children and their families. These invaluable experiences have molded me into the therapist I am today. One important topic comes up frequently when talking to parents: most wish they had more knowledge and awareness of speech/language development so they knew sooner that their child’s development was delayed.

The two main areas of communication development are Language and Speech. Language is the rule-based system that we use to communicate, including what words mean, how they can be put together, and how to make new words. It is made up of Expressive Language (what is said) and Receptive Language (what is understood). Speech is the actual verbal communication and includes fluency, voice, and articulation. SLPs also work on Pragmatics, the social use of language, and aural rehabilitation, after children receive hearing aids or cochlear implants. The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) has fantastic resources on speech/language development that can be accessed here: http://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/chart/.

There is little information on the incidence of communication disorders and delays in the United States. In the 2005-2006 school year, 1.1 million students were classified in schools as having a “speech and language impairment”. This number is certainly higher to account for children who receive therapy in outpatient clinics, non-public schools, and in the home. Beyond these numbers are the numbers of children diagnosed with Autism. It is now estimated that 1 in 68 children are on the Autism Spectrum. 1 in 68. What this means for SLPs is that our caseloads are being made up more and more of children who have a diagnosis of Autism. Not all children with autism have speech/language challenges, many need help learning to follow directions, take turns talking, greeting others, saying words, signing, and imitating gestures and actions. The list goes on and on. A lack of or delay in communication is often the first sign parents have that something is going on with their child’s development and so it is so important to understand typical development.

All of that is the technical information about what I do. It is very important that parents, families, and the public understand what speech and language is and when to recognize a delay or disorder. But, I can tell you that there is so much more to what we do. This is a job that my fellow SLPS and myself are extremely passionate about. We LOVE helping children learn to communicate! There is nothing more rewarding than the first time a child says a sound, word, or their first sentence. THAT is why we do what we do every day.

Kristin Kouka, MA, CCC-SLP

Speech-Language Pathologist

Kouka Kids Speech Therapy, LLC

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Go and Have Fun!

Summer is an exciting time filled with opportunities for fun and social opportunities. Though this is a fun time, the change in routine, unusual clothes, increased interaction, and new places may be stressful for children with an autism spectrum disorder. Bierman ABA Autism Center has provided some tips that may help ease anxiety and help with enjoyment of summer fun and travel.

Just like any vacation, the key to a great trip with a kid with autism is preparation. Here are some tips for the extra preparation your family may need to enjoy fun in the sun:

    If traveling to a new place, provide children with pictures before hand. If possible, arrange these pictures into a visual schedule. The internet is a great resource for this. While going through the pictures, tell your child what they may do, see, hear, or feel in the new place. Use words or more pictures to tell them what will happen before or after they visit the new place.

   • Sensory practice. Will your trip require sleeping in a different bed or other new sensory experiences? “Practice” these new senses at home before leaving. Switch beds with your child or have your child sleep on the couch. If headed to the beach, have your child play in a local sandbox or dip his feet in a bucket of water at home.

   • Wear new clothing or swimsuits before the trip. Try on any new or unusual clothing at home before the trip. Try them on for the first time while a child participates in one of his favorite activities.

    • Plan to take breaks. Bring some of a child’s favorite items on the trip. Think of a realistic time frame a child can participate in a vacation activity without taking a break. Use the child’s favorite items to motivate the children.

   • Earplugs. You never know what new sound may bother a child with autism. Earplugs can also be used as a “magic” barrier to help children feel safe and protected in a new environment.

    • Practice waiting in lines and other travel routines. Model the experience in your own home. The Transportation Security Association also has videos of all travel procedures available on their website.

   • Prepare an information card to give to guest services, flight attendants, or other personnel associated with your trip. Many travel and hospitality employees have special needs and disability training. This will staff know what extra considerations may help your family be successful. Image