Start Speech & Occupational Therapies
Speech and Occupational therapies are probably the most common
(and effective) companions to programs in Behavior Modification. Review the
following descriptions for each of the services and give careful consideration
to integrating them into your child's program.
Speech and language therapy should be viewed as the central
part of your child's treatment, especially for those who are nonverbal. Impairments
in speech, language, or feeding can have far-reaching consequences, affecting
every aspect of your child's life. Impairments in these areas have a direct
impact on communication, learning, play, and the proper consumption of food.
Parents need to realize that the following issues are not easily overcome, but
they can be improved or entirely corrected. Proper diagnosis and therapy is
critical to the outcome of the treatment. Review the following descriptions
of "speech" and "language" to better your understanding of meeting your child's
Speech: The ability to pronounce words. There are a
variety of reasons why children may have difficulty pronouncing words; inability
may be related to one or more of the following:
Articulation Disorder: The child has a problem pronouncing
a particular sound or a few sounds.
Phonological Disorder: The child has difficulty understanding
the sound system itself and the speech rules.
Oral-Motor Deficits: The child shows deficits in strength
and movement of the jaw, lips, tongue, and cheeks.
Apraxia: The child has difficulty coordinating oral muscles
to make a sound or string of sounds
Stuttering: Disruptions or breaks in the smooth flow of speech.
Language: Language refers to the content of what is
spoken, written, read, or understood. It is categorized into two areas: receptive
and expressive language. Receptive language is the ability to comprehend someone
else's speech or gestures. Problems with receptive language may include difficulty
understanding vocabulary, concepts, sequences, directions, and conversations.
Expressive language is the ability to create a message that others will understand.
A child who has difficulty expressing him or herself may be taught to use a
variety of communication modes such as speech, manual sign, gestures, pictures,
facial expressions, or communication devices.
Choosing a Therapist
Although most school districts offer speech services (including
initial assessment), parents may find more benefit in having their children
treated by private therapist (outside of the school). Although the qualifications
(training and experience) are usually equitant, there are a number of important
distinctions to consider:
Speech/Language Services (through the school):
Child may have significant needs but will not qualify for
appropriate services if test scores aren't low
enough. (Testing performed by the school)
Feeding and oral-motor deficits are usually not addressed
because they are not defined as an
Amount/hours of therapy is dictated by the school district
and is usually split between one-on-one
and group therapy sessions. The result is less
focused attention and treatment on individual children
Parents are isolated from the treatment (that is, they have
no idea what's being addressed and how,
usually are not involved in any aspect of the
therapy, and are given infrequent progress reports).
Speech/Language Services (through a private, licensed practice):
Child will be given an unbiased assessment and provided with
services appropriate to his or her needs.
Feeding and oral-motor deficits can be addressed.
Amount/hours of therapy is established by the parents and
the recommendations of the therapist.
Parents are in control and plugged into all aspects of the
treatment, including participation in therapy.
For some, this may not be an issue; that is, parents will be
allowed to seek a private therapist and receive funding if their school district
does not have the appropriate Speech/Language services available. If this is
not the case, our recommendation is obvious: If possible, pursue a private therapist.
Benefits include control, involvement, and a higher level of service. If funding
a private therapist is not possible, parents are still encouraged to obtain
a formal assessment from a private Speech/Language Pathologist. This may serve
as your only justification in obtaining the best/most appropriate services from
your child's school district.
Occupational Therapy or "O.T." is a health care service that
deals with a child's ability to function in everyday life activities and occupations
that provide meaning to one's life. O.T. is extremely important to children
who have difficulty performing or participating in tasks such as self-care,
going to school, playing, social interaction, working, and living independently.
O.T. benefits children with autism by attempting to improve the quality of life
through successful and meaningful experiences. This may be accomplished through
the maintenance, improvement, or introduction of skills necessary for the child
to participate as independently as possible in meaningful life activities. Such
skills include coping skills, fine motor skills, self-help skills, and socialization
and play skills.
Once again, these services (including
initial assessment) are usually
provided by the school and are generally perceived as adequate. However, parents
may want to consider private therapy for the same reasons described in the Speech/Language
section if the child is severely disabled or challenged in a specific area.
Therapists use a variety of theories and treatment approaches when providing
services. They may also use a combination of approaches to meet specific needs.
Such approaches may include the following:
Play theories, and more
is a list of qualifications for those seeking Occupational Therapy (from a private
Formal education (degree) in Occupational Therapy
Formal training and experience in performing Occupational
Personality, patience, and enthusiasm
NOTE: Check with your insurance provider because some
plans cover Speech and Occupational therapies, especially for patients with
feeding/oral-motor deficits. Remember, health care providers draw the line between
education and health care needs as well.