Sunday, I posted to a SEN Parents support group to ask if our experience with the Speech and Language Therapist was normal. With the exception of one parent, every parent said that their experience with Speech and Language Therapy did not meet their expectations. SALT does not have the capacity for helping children on a one to one basis; rather they can only manage passing materials on to Teaching Assistants and Parents to do the footwork while they monitor any progress.
And in general, parents were saying, there is no treatment on the NHS for Autistic kids. So the Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Applied Behavior Analysis, Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and other Physical Therapies are simply not offered on the NHS to Autistic kids, where in the US they are commonly offered and available.
As you can imagine, this has been very hard for me to digest. I’m going to have a word with my GP today to get some more support for me and then I’m going to try to figure out a way through it.
What I have now incorporated into our learning at home is a book called Social Skills Training for Children and Adolescents with Asperger Syndrome and Social-Communications Problems by Jed E. Baker. I’m supplementing this with a free ebook I found called 101 Ways to Teach Children Social Skills: A Ready-to-Use, Reproducible Activity Book by Lawrence E Shapiro, Ph.D.
The Jed E. Baker book offers lessons on a wide range of common social interactions such as Conversations and Managing Friendships. What made this book stand out to me was its lessons on Self Regulation and Conflict Management, which I believe are likely to be the hardest skill sets for Spectrum Kids to master, as well as crucial for social independence. Many books had chapters about Friendship and Showing Empathy, but very few on Conflict Management and even fewer about Self Regulation.
There is also a chapter with a simple framework for tracking progress. However, it is very difficult for any book to cover the full scale complexity and scope of human interaction and I still worry about gaps in things that I have very little experience in, such as men’s urinal etiquette. The book also suggests selecting and prioritizing a ‘menu’ of needs which would be more appropriate in a small group setting of children with mixed skill levels. With consideration to the age of my son, we’re just starting from the beginning and I’ll be going through all seventy lessons with him, one per week. And since we do Mastery Based Competency in his education plan, if he hasn’t mastered that skill in a week, we spend the next week on it. And then the next week, until he masters it.
These lessons are intended for use in a small group setting, so pre-reading each lesson before deploying and making notes on intended changes is necessary. But much of it is out of the box or using print outs that can be copied directly from the book.
I’ve printed out the 101 Ways… lessons and stuffed them into the Jed E. Baker book where the subject matter of each lesson is similar to a lesson offered by the Jed E. Baker book. My intent is, as I go through each lesson, following how it is laid out in the Jed E. Baker book, I have more than one idea on how to teach the given skill. Some lessons are done as games. Others are role playing. Others are simply discussion and completing worksheets with suggestions on how to practice over the week.
Today, I received the Elklan Early Language Builders book in the mail. This is the one that was suggested by the Speech Therapist. I haven’t had the chance to look deeply into just yet, but will talk about it once I have. I did look for a comprehensive matrix of skills to check against, and it offers some very basic checklists, but nothing as in depth as I would like. So, it looks like I’ll be doing some more searching.