American Speech and Hearing Association (AHSA) Convention Highlights
One Thing You Can Do To Increase Attention
Prediction! The simple act of making a prediction (about anything) whether it turns out true or false, releases Dopamine in the brain. The neurotransmitter Dopamine can be known to help with memory and attention, along with regulating movement and emotional responses.
So, if you have a child or adult who is having difficulty attending to a task or conversation, have them make a prediction about something. Predicting or problem solving takes emotional regulation, time and attention.
Let's say you're having a conversation with your child and they seem to be having a hard time keeping their body still or attending to what you are saying, you need to get their attention before you are able to have them listen and understand what you are saying. So have them make some predictions. For example, you could say "what do you think will be for snack tomorrow" or "I wonder what kind of cake is going to be at Jake's birthday".
If your child is having a hard time attending to a book, try having them make a prediction on what is going on in the book. Remember, the usual tools to gain attention and promote language may still apply for some. Including animation and exaggerated emotions while speaking and judging what types of questions are appropriate based on language level.
ASHA presentation by Stacy Crowly M.A. CCC-SLP
How to Create a Strong Base for Speech and Language
There are many ways to target speech and language development, however, there are a couple things that may need to be targeted before speech and language growth are successful.
First: self-regulation (including emotional and sensory regulation; also known has behavior regulation).
Third: expressive-language, receptive language, executive function and social interaction.
To target self-regulation your child may need to work with an Occupational Therapist. The occupational therapist should give the speech and language therapist ideas to use within their session to help regulate the child. The speech therapist can help with emotional regulation and support as well. Either way, it is important to target regulation, as an imbalance in one's regulation makes it difficult to access language.
Next comes joint attention. Success with joint attention can happen in steps. Your first goal may be to just sit next to the same object as your child and increase the amount of time you and your child are next to the object while you both are playing separately. Then you may both be focusing on the same object, demonstrating that joint attention, but not necessarily playing together. When you get to the first stages of this joint engagement over an object/toy, you want to start looking for eye gazes between adult and child, gesturing and pointing.
With kids who are verbal you may still need to establish self regulation and joint attention. One last thing to remember, when establishing sensory regulation and joint attention, is that you may need to limit the amount you are talking. I know it's tempting to continue talking as usual, but for a child that has language delays we need to take out the hard part of processing or formulating their language so they can just focus on creating the base and foundation.
ASHA Presentation By: Leslie Blome, Douglas County Schools
Theory of Mind in People with Autism
What is Theory of Mind (ToM)? ToM is the ability to understand that others have beliefs and perspectives that are different from one's own.
This tends to be an area that is difficult with children with Autism. People with Autism may have difficulty perceiving what they think, what others think and how as a whole people have different perceptions.
First you have to develop communicative intent, then joint attention, followed by language development and lastly ToM.
It's important to remember that a person's overall language development needs to be the primary goal before ToM can be targeted. Some activities to help target ToM may include:
- Using and understanding different types of emotions. Not only identifying them but also identifying them in social scenarios (pictures, TV shows, video modeling)
- Looking at a picture with multiple people and noticing what each person may be thinking
- Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper, write "Jamie" and "Matt" (for example) and ask a variety of questions; you will see that Jamie's favorite fruit is an apple and Matt's favorite fruit is a grape
- Read books with multiple people on a page where you can discuss different perspectives
ASHA Presentation By: Lei Sun, California St University of Long Beach
Why Visuals Are Important For Comprehension In ASD?
Some people with Autism have difficulty with automatic cognitive processing. Meaning, that when they hear information verbally they can have difficulty encoding (making sense of it) the information.
In one research study presented, MRI's were done with typically developing children and children with Autism. When shown the same task that typically requires the left side of your brain, known as the language side, children with Autism used more of the right side of their brain, using more visual processing areas. The research reported, that these children "remembered what it looked like, not what the letter was". For example, instead of remembering that they were shown the letter "T" or shown a letter, they might say "there was one line and another on top" (depending on level of their expressive language). Bottom line, it was reported that children with ASD use visual strategies better than verbal encoding.
So what can we do to better support comprehension and encoding in child with ASD? Use more visual pictures and techniques when teaching new language concepts.
Along the same lines, if a child is having difficulty retelling personal experiences and expressing what happened, try taking pictures of these experiences. For example, if you go to disneyland, take pictures throughout your day. Then, ask them about their trip without the pictures infront of them and then with the pictures infront of them and notice if these pictures helped. I bet they did!
Other ideas of when to take pictures for story retell practice:
- Have a teacher's assistant take a few pictures throughout the day to email you
- During daily routines, such as: making breakfast, getting ready for bed, getting ready for school
- Weekend events
- Field Trips
While your child is looking at the pictures and recalling their experiences you can help them fill in the blank by modeling appropriate language and helping with word finding difficulties.
ASHA presentation by Diane Williams, Duquesne University