Using Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Presume Competence for ALL Individuals

By: Sheryl Rosin Ph.D.,CCC-SLP, Owner/Director of Palm Beach Speech-Language Specialists, CAS and Trainer for IBCCES, Adjunct Professor, Nova Southeastern University

domMeet Dominik

I have been working with individuals with autism for 20 years and have met many interesting and exciting people along the way. In this blog, I have someone that I would like to introduce to you that I believe is an extraordinary person. His name is Dominik and he is 14-years-old. Dominik has diagnoses of autism and apraxia and is essentially non-verbal with his spoken language, but is definitely NOT non-verbal when using other means to communicate aside from the spoken word. Upon meeting Dominik, you may assume that he has limited communication skills, but since we presume competence when working with our clients, I learned that the opposite it true. Dominik has a passion for writing and using language to communicate his vast interests. One of the ways he has learned to do this is through an augmentative communication application called “Speak for Yourself (SFY).” SFY runs as a communication device on the iPad and uses synthetic speech to aid individuals with their expressive language output. It is based on core vocabulary and allows the person to communicate using generative language. Dominik has learned to use the augmentative communication system to express his wants and needs, feelings, hold conversations with others, and to communicate his expansive knowledge and interests in a variety of topics. Our conversations using AAC have ranged from the etiology of autism to future careers. Dominik thinks that vaccines “are the culprit of autism” and wants to be “a neurologist” when he is older. When Dominik communicates using AAC, he let us into his amazing world of thought. Not only does he use SFY; he can type on a computer keyboard, write with facilitated assistance, and is now starting to use verbal speech as AAC has been a bridge to developing spoken language for him.

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Featured Autism Specialist: Thelma Atha

Thelma Atha, M.Ed, CAS; Director of Counseling Department & Learning Support Specialist at Lincoln International Academy in Managua, Nicaragua; Private practice in Managua, Nicaragua focused on Sensory Integration Therapy, TEACCH, and Behavior Modification Therapy.

Country: Managua, Nicaragua

School/ Organizations/Center: Lincoln International Academy, Managua, Nicaragua

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3 Tips for Social Workers and Autism

socialworkersBy Taveesha Guyton, Social Worker & soon-to-be CAS

I am a social work professional whose expertise is working with the intellectually-disabled and population of individuals with autism. I really love my job and who I work for.  My sole purpose in my position is to provide resources, education and advocacy for this steady growing population, which affects 1 in 68 births in the United States.

1. Listen to you clients.  What I want for my clients is very different from what they want for themselves.  Many times in the field, professionals who work with clients look at the end result versus looking at the here and now. I have learned to listen what is being said and sometimes what is not being said.

2. Provide Choices.  Providing choices. It is important to exercise the ability to choose. Providing options are the best way for people to find out what they like and do not like and it also helps create more conversation about many other things. Choice making is a skill I feel is not exercised enough with this population. (Check out great visual support ideas here.)

3. Ensure proper supports are in place.  What is needed for this individual with autism to maintain a ” normal” life is usually the question asked and how do we as  a professionally supportive community help create this world for this individual? Will the individual need vocational rehabilitation because their goal is to earn competitive wages? If the individual’s goal is to live alone, will this person need the assistance of a Supported Living Coach? Will this individual need guidance for activities of daily living such as medication management, making doctor’s appointments, meal preparation and grocery shopping? What about socialization and community-based outings? Will the individual need someone to help integrate them into the community?

In assisting in the coordination and maintenance of services for the individual with special needs or autism, social workers are able to make the lives of  individuals with autism a little better.

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Is Your “Back to School” Budget Stretched? 18 Ways to Keep it UP!

elayne photoBy Elayne Pearson, Special Needs Safety/Preparedness Specialist, CAS

More than one mother recently confided that getting her children ready to enter school with its fees, clothes, and required items was a real financial burden—and those students weren’t even in high school yet.  I recalled those same September concerns years ago, knowing taxes were also due in November, and Christmas was just around the corner.  With four amazing daughters, including Heidi (our beautiful daughter with Down syndrome and late-onset autism) my husband Rod and I felt so blessed, but our budget and stress levels were very stretched. With Heidi’s special needs for good quality vitamins/food, calming craniosacral therapy appointments each week, and educational toys and more – my motto, “keep it up!” served us well. Today’s parents can live this way, too, with some of our common sense advice.

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On the Outside of Life Looking In: Trapped Inside an Autistic Body

anita-lesko-1-500pxBy Anita Lesko, BSN, RN, MS, CRNA

Imagine going the first fifty years of your life with an invisible disorder that you don’t know you have.  It affects every move you make, every word you speak, and simply everything you do. You realize you are different than other people and never fit in, only you don’t understand why.  As a child, other children run away from you.  You try and make friends only no one wants to be your friend.  You have all kinds of sensory issues that others don’t seem to have.  Your sense of taste, smell, touch, hearing, and vision are amplified as if you live in IMAX 24/7, 365 days a year.   Every social interaction seems to end up as a negative one.  When you attempt to join in on conversations at work, everyone ignores you as if you are invisible.  You are a target of bullying and harassment, not only throughout your school years, but at your workplace as well.  You spend fifty years feeling like you are on the outside of life looking in.  As if there’s a glass shield keeping you away from joining in with others.  You see people together out in restaurants, in malls, everywhere you go, you see them laughing, talking, having fun. Yet there you are, alone.  You try and get used to it, but deep inside you long for even just one friend.  The feeling of loneliness at times totally consumes you.  Holidays are the worst, as you are aware that others are gathering for big celebrations, as you are home alone yet again.  Sadly, this is all common to individuals on the autism spectrum.

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Meet Twiddle, a Sensory Resource for Autism

Throughout her life, Lily had been marvelous with her hands. She loved creating beautiful knitted sweaters, delicate embroidery and award-winning recipes. As she aged, Lily’s eyesight began to fade, and those wonderful hands became idle and chilled. The Twiddle gave Lily’s inquisitive hands something to keep them active, engaged and warm. Lily was also reminded of how much she was loved, even when her daughter, the creator of Twiddle, couldn’t be with her.

Meet Twiddle, a new Certified Autism Resource that was created as a sensory tool for individuals with autism, dementia and other sensory conditions. Twiddles are playful comfort aids that assist people of all ages with a range of sensory-related conditions. Providing comfort or activity as needed,Twiddles assist in organizing tactile, visual and auditory input. They are also a way of expanding someone’s personal space, and with more than 25,000 sold since 1997, Twiddles provide an affordable, drug-free therapeutic alternative. Continue Reading →

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Autism Awareness in Nigeria: Meet Nobelova Gradani

IBCCES Certified Training Partner Nobelova Gradani is educating the Nigerian community about autism in effort to reduce stigma about ASD.

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Meet Helen Obiageli Oshikoya, the founder of Nigerian-based Nobelova Gradani. Nobelova Gradani is an IBCCES Certified Training Partner that was created to help train and educate professionals that work with individuals with autism in Nigeria.

As part of their self-funded effort to address the burden of autism in Lagos Nigeria, the organization has been involved in many efforts since 2012, including school-based awareness programs, screening of at-risk children and training of middle-level intervention service providers.

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Reputation Matters: Personal Branding for Autism Professionals

LidaBy Lida Citroen, IBCCES Board Member, LIDA360

Everyone has a personal brand – whether you are a politician, celebrity, physical therapist, or teacher  — that forms their reputation, in person and online. Right or wrong, other people’s perception of us determines whether they want to work with us, hire us, partner with us, or interact with us.

In the 20+ years I’ve worked as a personal branding and reputation management specialist, I’ve helped define, design and re-direct the perceptions of my clients in industries across education, technology, healthcare, finance, coaching, and many more. I can say with all certainty that your personal brand is directly related to the opportunities you attract and the credibility you hold in your field.

As an Autism professional, you interact with educators, students, parents, administrators and other colleagues, who form perceptions of you that directly influences whether they see you as valuable and relevant to them.

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Featured Certified Autism Specialist: Dr. Ann Marie Leonard-Zabel

Featured CAS or ACAS Name: Dr. Ann Marie Leonard-Zabel, CAS, ACAS 1 and ACAS 2; Full Professor of Psychology; School Neuropsychologist; Clinical Instructor and Clinical Supervisor

State/Country: Massachusetts

School/ Organizations: Curry College Department of Psychology; NEALAC Clinic – private practice; KidsInc School Neuropsychology Post-Graduate Certificate Program

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International Autism Training and Certification for ASEAN Professionals in Singapore

St. Andrew’s Autism Centre (SAAC) in collaboration with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards is presenting a two-day conference in Singapore September 8-9 to bring a world class autism training and certification to professionals in Southeast Asia. The internationally-recognized program is regarded as the gold standard in certification that recognize individuals with advanced knowledge in autism.

During the two-day training conference, attendees will take part in hands-on activities and group sessions with other education and therapy professionals from around the world. Collaborative sessions will teach how to leverage autism traits and characteristics as potential springboards for success in education and health care. Attendees will also take part in engaging discussions on effective self-advocacy, meaningful engagement in the community and how to effectively model training for individuals with autism. Through a series of two-day conference sessions, they will provide attendees with expert knowledge centered around the IBCCES 10 Areas of Autism Competency.

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