Speech and Language are often primary areas of concerns when we first meet a family with a child with autism, it is one of the core areas of the TLC curriculum and often the first area we build prerequisite skills for when we design an Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) program and remains a large focus throughout the duration of the program. Every lesson within a child’s program will have a communicative component that requires language skills to learn and demonstrate.
Language is a complicated area within a broader, more complex area of communication. Language can be receptive (what we hear and understand) or expressive (what we vocally say). Communication skills also incorporate body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, among other areas.
Our programs are heavily based in speech and language and use a verbal behaviour framework to ensure that the skills we teach are easier to acquire, generalise and maintain. Our curriculum is built upon the typical progression of language acquisition. Our focus is on teaching speech and language that is functional in day to day life. We build a foundation with receptive language, helping children understand labels and concepts of the world around them in a multitude of ways.
Using a verbal behaviour framework, we typically begin a program by working on imitating sounds – imitation is the cornerstone for learning any new skill,speech and language included. Once a child has an imitative repertoire, we use it to teach them how to ask for highly preferred items and activities. By working on speech and language in a way that provides immediate gratification, we encourage the fast acquisition of these new skills with the added benefit of reducing behaviours caused by frustrations of not being understood. We continue to teach language by moving through the verbal operants, expanding the child’s repertoire and sentence structure and length, selecting targets that are functional and age appropriate.