Thursday, June 12, 2008


Maybe the "autistic" classroom should be the quietest in the whole school. This makes me speechless!!!

Here's a teaser:

The importance of using a minimal speech approach
Many children with autism, like those in this study, experience extreme difficulties in understanding speech and use little or no speech themselves. Several teachers commented on the ways that some children "just tune out from speech and voices" or "definitely cut out any language input". When adults used everyday speech with these children, they often withdrew from the social interaction by turning away, protesting or simply by "switching off".

The essence of a minimal speech approach is straightforward. It means that adults should consistently use only one or two relevant concrete words when interacting with children who understand little speech. Figure 1 highlights the difference between minimal speech and everyday speech in a snack session.

A minimal speech approach can be highly effective. When professionals used little or even no speech with children in this study, using non-verbal means of interaction instead, then children became more socially engaged and communicated more often. Maintaining a consistent minimal speech approach is often easier said than done: even when professionals recognise the need to limit their speech output to key words alone, it is often hard to keep this up in practice. Appropriate training and supportive monitoring will be necessary to ensure the consistent implementation of this approach.

In addition to the consistent use of a minimal speech approach, there are several other specific strategies and approaches that can be used to promote spontaneous communication.

Below are more "pearls of wisdom" from the site. I found this so very exciting that I had to share. I know next to nothing about this site, but I found it intriguing:

Case study 1: Jo
We observed Jo, a five-year-old child with severe autism and no speech, for a full school day. During that time, he communicated only 39 times - an average of seven communications per hour. Nine of Jo’s communications were to request food or objects, whilst the other 30 were to protest or reject actions of adults. These interactions lasted no more than a few seconds with any attempt to prolong them leading to him becoming distressed. By contrast, during a continuous 40 minute videotaped interaction session with an adult, who was using proximal communication strategies, Jo communicated 164 times - all of these communications were requests for social interaction, and were accompanied by laughter and appropriate eye-contact.

Case study 2: Tony
Tony is also five years old and has severe autism and minimal speech. He communicated spontaneously an average of 9 times per hour across the school day. Only three communications during the day were requests for social interaction. Again, during a videotaped interaction, using proximal communication techniques, he communicated 71 times in a four-minute period. All of these communications were requests for social interaction.

These case studies are not isolated examples. All the children who were observed in proximal communication settings showed significantly more intentional communication than in other situations.


r.b. said...

note to self--"proximal communication" autism--75 hits.

Marla said...

Interesting. I think it would depend on the individual child. Why do people tend to think one teaching method would work for all children, especially all autistic children. My daughter does better with fewer words being spoken but not all children would be like that.

mommy~dearest said...

Excellent post! My son is considered "High Functioning", and he benefits from minimal speech as well, so I don't think it would be beneficial only to "severe autism" cases.

I wish more people would seriously consider things like minimal speech- it really does make a difference.

therextras said...

Since you asked so nicely, RB... the figure said it all for me - my mind said, that's exactly the kind of adapation (to communication) I would use. On reading the whole post, I found the case examples fascinating, same as you. The cases fit with what I see in interactions with a friend in her home with her autistic daughter.

The premise for using non-auditory or minimal verbal communication with someone who avoids it makes sense in practical way.

Which reminds me, similarly (tell me if you don't agree) this is similar to accommodating a child who cannot walk with power mobility. Many think that this will cause the child to not learn to walk, while I think it gives the child motivation to walk. See my post "Motor First".

BTW, your second message to me just came in while I'm typing this.

I found you through The Voyage. I'll be back. Barbara

r.b. said...

Nice to meet you! I've glanced through your page. I agree that allowing our kids to make their own decisions in any way empowers them. I can't imagine how it would feel to have the freedom to go where you wanted to. There are few things we take for granted more than the ability to walk and talk without assistance..

lastcrazyhorn said...

Clear concise statements. Meaningful statements.

You want an example? Watch House sometime. Classic aspie.

r.b. said...

HOUSE---saw the "aspie" episode. Made me love it even more!!!!

Maddy said...

A timely reminder, as always.
Best wishes

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