July 2015
A bi-monthly newsletter to keep you informed about topics related to Autism Spectrum Disorders and Developmental/Intellectual Disabilities.

What are the first words you think of when you think of autism?
Maybe the answer is "words" themselves. Since parents tend to anticipate and pay close attention to their child's first spoken words, the process of arriving at an autism diagnosis is often triggered by a child's unusual use of language or delayed use of speech. Parents may report to their pediatrician that "she doesn't have many words, for her age" or that "he always gets his pronouns reversed." The accurate observation of speech and language differences can, however, lead to highly inaccurate observations about a child's other activities and abilities. A child's awareness and intelligence may be unfairly called into question. Parents of a child who does not speak may be told that he or she "is not able to communicate," despite their insistence that their child has found many highly effective ways to make needs and feelings known!

Communication is always happening all around us, yet may be overlooked when it does not happen through typical forms of spoken language. Communication, speech, and language are often lumped together as if they were the same thing, when in fact they are not. This confusion can lead to serious underestimations of what people on the autism spectrum know and can do. For example, children who do not speak fluently may be treated as if they do not comprehend language. Adults may unintentionally cause them distress by making negative comments in their presence or allowing others to do so, or by failing to recognize their basic need to be given information and explanations.  

LEARN MORE: "Nothing Never Happens"
Social Dictionaries
We live in the Communication Age, in a constant stream of media and messages. But while computers have become our model of how information is exchanged, it's important to remember that information must first be created. The only way for that to happen is the old-fashioned way: through relationships or, as the dictionary defines it, "personal rapport." 

Communication starts at birth - for everyone! 

Every time an infant comes into the world, eager parents and caregivers immediately begin to draw him or her into the world of human communication. They observe closely and start to pick up many cues about what the baby wants and feels. They notice the fussiness that means "time to eat" or "time to sleep" and respond appropriately. They notices changes in behavior and investigate them as possible signs of distress or illness. They speak to the baby and comment on the things he or she does, whether kicking or cooing or startling at a nearby sound. They follow the baby's gaze and name the person or thing at which the baby seems to be looking.

Seven to ten percent of the meaning of a verbal utterance is carried by the words, the rest by nonverbal cues.  When these cues are inaccessible, language use and expectations become literal and precise, and one has difficulty with social abstraction.  Communication is the foundation of a relationship.  We need to listen to each other.  Sometimes we are not just listening with our ears, but with our eyes.  Communication can be simple yet so complex.  

A social dictionary can be a great tool to help depict what individuals are communicating. Developing a social dictionary the team can show others how the individual "communicates." It can help others understand the individual better. The social dictionary also helps others know that "Everyone Communicates."

Assistive Technology

According to the Institute of Disability from the Temple University: An assistive technology device is "any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities" (P.L. 108-364). Assistive devices may be as simple as a piece of foam which makes a spoon easier to grasp, or as complex as a computer that responds to voice commands.


iPad and Autism
iPad and Autism
Assistive technology services are "any services that directly assist an individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device" (P.L. 108-364). These services may include adapting a toy so that it may be operated by a child with disabilities, installing grab bars for an older person to increase his/her safety in the home, or teaching an individual to use a Braille note-taking device.