The Power of a Peer

by Jordan Lupton, M.S., CCC-SLP (Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, North Carolina)

Photo credit: Pixabay

INTRODUCTION

Students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often face significant struggles with social interaction, yet they have fewer opportunities to interact with typically developing peers because of an increased need for adult assistance with academics, attention, or behavior. Although these areas are important for improving a child’s quality of life at school, many parents of children with ASD rank social communication and interaction among their top concerns, and many ASD learners themselves desire to learn ways to improve peer relationships at school.

Peer Mediated Instruction and Intervention (PMII) provides a way for teachers and therapists to address this area of need. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill define PMII as follows:

“With a foundation in behaviorism and social learning theory, PMII involves systematically teaching peers without disabilities, ways of engaging learners with ASD in positive and meaningful social interactions.”

In addition to the benefits for the learner with ASD, PMII also benefits typically developing peers in expanding their social network, developing new friendships, and having higher quality interactions with classmates. Anyone can be trained in the use of PMII. Teachers, therapists, and paraprofessionals should work together to implement PMII successfully.

PMII FOR PRESCHOOL AND ELEMENTARY-AGED CHILDREN

  • Peer Modeling: Teach a peer to demonstrate a target skill to the student with ASD. Target skills may include: requesting, following directions, greeting, or joining in an activity or conversation.
  • Peer Initiation Training: Train peers to encourage interactions with students with ASD, such as maintaining conversations, taking turns, or responding to invitations.
  • Direct Training: Peers and students with ASD are taught specific skills directly.

PMII FOR UPPER ELEMENTARY, MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS

  • Peer Networks: Peers meet and interact with the learner with ASD in a regular meeting outside of instructional time.
  • Peer Supports: Peers support the learner with ASD academically and socially in an inclusive environment.

USING PMII IN THE CLASSROOM OR THERAPY SESSIONS

  1. Identify the goal for your learner with ASD and times when social interactions naturally occur.
  2. Select peers thoughtfully and carefully. The peers should be exhibit good language, social and play skills, express a willingness to participate, and have parent permission.
  3. Train peers to recognize and appreciate individual differences, then review target behaviors.
  4. Develop scripts for peers to use, and role play with them.
  5. Plan for peers to interact with the learner with ASD in scheduled times daily.
  6. Monitor progress and provide peer support and feedback as needed.

SUMMARY

Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention is an effective intervention for students with autism spectrum disorder. PMII can be used to effectively address goals in social skills, communication, joint attention, play skills, school-readiness, and academic skills.

REFERENCES

AFIRM Team. (2015). Peer-mediated instruction and intervention. Chapel Hill, NC: National

Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder, FPG Child Development Center, University of North Carolina. Retrieved from http://afirm.fpg.unc.edu/Peer-mediated-instruction-and-intervention

Dynamic Assessment: The Answer to Moving Away from Standardized Tests

by Sarah Smith, M.S., CCC-SLP and Beth Burns, M.S., CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologists in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

Our most recent blog entry talked about the limitations of standardized tests.  Today, we’ll address the answer to the question:  “If I shouldn’t use a standardized test to determine presence of a language disorder, what do I do?”  In short, use dynamic assessment, which means test – teach – test.

Dynamic Assessment is the best way to eliminate the biases present within standardized assessments. As a contrast to a standardized assessment, dynamic assessment  shifts our consideration from do they know it… to can they learn it?

Can the student acquire new skills with the same effort as peers from similar backgrounds?  

Dynamic Assessment  is composed of a pretest, mediated learning experience, and a post test. Throughout the entire process we are evaluating whether the student can learn new skills with the same ease or effort as typically developing peers.  Dynamic assessment also gives us insight into how the student learns. The subjectivity within Dynamic Assessment means it is imperative for us as clinicians to develop our clinical opinions by knowing what normal is.  We also need to know how much instructional effort is needed for typical peers.  In other words, we need to have good clinical skills.

Language Samples incorporating Dynamic Assessment are the fastest and the best way to provide a qualitative look at a student’s language.

For detailed information on applying dynamic assessment — Check it out!

Fast Mapping Task Test — Check it out!

Non-Word Repetition Task– Check it out!

Got Problem Behaviors? – Turn them into Communication

By Ashley Hudson, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologist, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

Every classroom has a system in place to manage student behavior.  Schools in Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools (CHCCS) implement Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS).  Some schools within CHCCS implement complementary approaches, such as Conscious Discipline, but what do you do when these approaches are not working for a student?

FUNCTIONAL COMMUNICATION

Functional communication is a method for understanding the communicative intent of problem behavior and finding an appropriate replacement for that behavior.  Functional communication teaches us that the primary function of communication, and therefore behavior, is to get things (e.g., attention, objects), or escape things (e.g., avoiding attention, avoiding work).

Central assumptions to this approach are that:

  • All problem behavior has a purpose for the person
  • Children can/should be taught how to communicate, and not just how to reduce undesired behaviors
  • A single behavior can have multiple purposes (e.g., escape demands, getting a preferred toy)
  • The goal of intervention is not solely to reduce undesirable behavior,  rather the goal is to change the environment, so that the student is able to communicate more effectively
  • Most communicative behavior serves as a means of requesting (e.g., attention, sensory)
  • Many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or language disorders may lack the skills to request in a socially acceptable manner

VERBAL COMMUNICATION

Speech is not required for verbal communication, although it is the most common medium.  Verbal communication is a behavior that is communicative in nature.  In a child with a language impairment, such as a child with Autism, verbal communication may be not characterized by the use of speech. For example, rather than saying that he/she wants more time with the iPad, the child may fall on the floor when it is time to transition to a non-preferred task.  The Functional Communication model suggests that the child needs to be taught socially acceptable language to request more time with the iPad (e.g., “I want more time with the iPad”).

FUNCTIONAL COMMUNICATION MODEL

Environmental Events

Observable Behavior

Change in Environment

*Important note: This model also stresses that both positive and negative reinforcement increase behavior.

CONCLUSIONboy-with-backpack

The Functional Communication model states that behavior has communicative intent. It further states that it is imperative that the intent/function of behavior is determined so that socially appropriate communication (i.e., requests) can be increased, and problem-behavior decreased.

KEY IDEAS

  1. Consequences (i.e., desired outcomes) cause behavior, not antecedents
  2. Problem behavior is serving a purpose
  3. Use the purpose/intent of the behavior in context to teach appropriate communication
  4. Teach a child to tell you that they want/don’t want something (e.g., I need a break, I want more time with the iPad)  rather than focusing on compliance with a task demand

REFERENCES

  1. Travers, Jason, Turning Problem Behavior Into Effective Communication, ASHA Professional Development
  2. Travers, Jason.  GET THE MESSAGE! The Communicate Nature of Inappropriate Behavior in Learners with ASD. ASHA Presentation.

RESOURCES

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gk-si6X4FXY

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Preschool Stuttering? 5 Easy Tips for Adults

by S. Michaels, H. Miller, P. Norwood, H. Petrusa, A. Samuels (CHCCS SLP Pre-K Team)

Everyone has normal dysfluencies, especially preschoolers.   Preschool age children are learning the “adult way” of forming sounds into words and sentences.  They do not yet have the speech motor coordination that mature speakers have acquired.  In other words, their mouths are trying to keep up with what their brains want to say.  Therefore, preschoolers may hesitate to speak, revise what they say, or repeat a word or phrase multiple times before conveying their idea.  You may wonder if this is stuttering – most often it is not.

According to J. Scott Yaruss (Yaruss, Scott. Young Children Who Stutter.  New York: National Stuttering Association, 2013. Print), there are a few red flags that indicate more than a typical dysfluency in a preschool child such as:

  • Part-word repetition (li-li-li-like this)
  • Prolongations (Loooooook at the snow)
  • Blocking (l….ike this)

This is not an exhaustive list.  You may see other behaviors or repetitions of sounds or words that seem outside the norm of other kids. There are many factors to consider when differentiating normal dysfluency from stuttering.  Talk to your speech-language pathologist about your concerns.  

Whether the child is experiencing normal dysfluencies or true stuttering, here are 5 suggestions for teachers and adults:

  1. Turtle Talk – Speak to children in a non-rushed manner all the time
  2. Pause, Think, Tell – Adult models a delayed response  – “Hmm, let me think about that….(3 seconds later)…Yes, I do like pizza.”
  3. Rephrase – Adult rephrases child’s message – “Oh so you did not like it when the dog jumped up and down”
  4. Praise – Praise child’s attempts at speaking! The message is for them to KEEP talking despite ‘bumpy’ speech i.e. “You have great ideas!”
  5. Reduce competition for simultaneous speaking – Remind others that it is this child’s turn to speak and then it will be the next person’s turn.  i.e “We have time to speak and time to listen.”

Study Promotes Traditional Toys For Language Development

by Beth Burns

The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) recently tweeted about a study by Dr. Anna Sosa, an Associate Professor in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Northern Arizona University.  She was featured in the New York Times and an NPR broadcast.  Her study found that even with electronic toys and e-books that were advertised as promoting language development,  babies vocalized less and parents responded and commented less than with traditional toys.

3 Foolproof Ways to Save Your Hearing

by Mary Kent Hill, Delia Hudson, and Kara VanHooser

Photo by flattop341 (Flickr)

What is “hearing conservation”?

Hearing conservation means “conserving”, or protecting, your hearing.

Why is it important?

Loud noise can damage hearing. The level of the noise as well as the length of time exposed to the the noise can cause noise-induced hearing loss. Continued exposure to noise above 85 dBA (adjusted decibels) over time will cause hearing loss. How loud are the sounds around us? Normal conversation is about 60 dBA. A food processor is about 85 dBA.  An ambulance siren is about 120 dBA. For more information, see these resources about noise and environmental sounds.

How can we practice hearing conservation?

When you encounter a loud noise, take these steps to protect your hearing:

  1. Turn the sound down if you can.
  2. If you can’t do that, then walk away from the sound.
  3. Another option is to protect your ears with your hands, earplugs or earmuffs.

See these resources for more information about hearing conservation.

Sources:

Noise. Available at: http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/noise/. Accessed December 3, 2015.

FIRST YEARS – Professional Development through Distance Education. FIRST YEARS – Professional Development through Distance Education. Available at: http://www.firstyears.org/lib/banana.htm. Accessed December 3, 2015.

Dangerous Decibels – A public health partnership for prevention of noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus. Dangerous Decibels The Solution Comments. Available at: http://www.dangerousdecibels.org/about-us/the-solutions/. Accessed December 3, 2015.

New e-book from the Stuttering Foundation

by Beth Burns

vakantie Madeira oktober 2001The Stuttering Foundation recently tweeted exciting news for teachers, parents, and speech-language pathologists.  “The Girl Who Stutters” is a free e-book for elementary or middle school students.  If you have a child/student who stutters, this could be an excellent resource.

The Girl Who Stutters

 

Difference or Disorder? When should I refer my language-learning student?

 

by Jennifer Kirschner & Rebecca Fox

How does a teacher know when a student whose first language is different from the ELL Photolanguage of instruction is appropriate for a referral for a speech-language evaluation?

Some stages of language development can seem concerning but are normal patterns.

Other times, there might be red flags you should not discount, regardless of language background!

Typical Second Language Development

  • Silent period: This first part of language acquisition can last as long as a year! Young children can have long silent periods.
  • Interference/ transfer: Student’s English errors mirror normal first-language structure.
  • ⇒ “house red” instead of “red house.”
  • Code-switching: Changing language in the middle of a phrase or sentence.
  • ⇒ “I like tu camisa.”
  • Grammatical errors: As a child learns a second language, you may hear mistakes similar to those a toddler makes when learning their first language. These are considered developmental.
  • Language loss: If a child does not use their first language, they will lose it! This can impact overall language ability.  Encourage families to use their native language at home to give their children a rich language experience.

red flag       RED FLAGS!          red flag

  • A parent is concerned about child’s language and communication.
  • A family history of language disabilities.
  • Student has a history of ear infections.
  • Student has a history of learning problems in their primary language.
  • Development and/or language skills are delayed compared to siblings.
  • Student’s growth seems lower compared to other students with a similar cultural and language background.
  • Lack of progress with interventions.
  • Inappropriate social skills.

 

Essential Facts About Eligibility in Schools

by Beth Burns

boy w busSometimes there is confusion regarding speech-language therapy at school vs. private speech-language therapy.  Many parents and pediatricians think that if a student cannot produce certain sounds correctly and a speech-language pathologist (SLP) works in their child’s school, the child could logically be enrolled in speech therapy at school.  SLPs in schools really do want to work with and help children.  However, certain eligibility criteria must be met according to “Policies Governing Services for Children with Disabilities” published by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI).  To be considered eligible for an IEP, three “prongs” to eligibility must be met.  The student must have:

  • a disorder
  • evidence that the disorder has an adverse affect on educational performance
  • evidence that the disorder requires specially designed instruction

Eligibility for private speech-language therapy is much simpler and less defined than therapy at school.  A private SLP can work on any speech or language issue the parent wants improved.  Private SLPs do not necessarily need to document a disorder for the child’s age, unless they are billing insurance for the service.