When it comes to language development, speech therapists and behavior analysts tend to hit a wall. Perspectives differ, orientations may not coincide, and discussions can get heated. The goal of this blog is to provide perspectives on language development in children with autism, language disorders, and developmental disabilities from the perspectives of a speech and language pathologist (SLP) and certified behavior analyst (BCBA), in order to show how these two domains can happily work together and collaborate. This is a new endeavor, so please be patient as we work together to address topics in language development. Questions, comments and concerns are welcomed and encouraged!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Why a Speech Language Pathologist is Necessary - Angela Mouzakitis

...and thus necessitating collaboration.

Many ABA school programs follow a generalist model. This means that behavior analysis is used to target all domains: occupational, physical, speech, etc. While I agree that behavior analysis is used in all these domains and is effective at teaching and shaping behaviors within all these domains, each professional related to these services, in my opinion, is essential.

As a behavior analyst, teacher and school psychologist, I have training in those areas. While as part of my training I have a decent working knowledge of the speech, occupational therapy and physical therapy, this is not my training or expertise. I need there professionals and their knowledge to create a comprehensive program for a child with autism or a developmental disability. I think it is a mistake to not have these related service providers as members of the team.

That being said, the line between speech and ABA is a little fuzzier. While language development is the focus of a speech language pathologists program and training, it becomes a little more complicated to collaborate because language is ALSO the focus of an ABA program. This is where some of the disagreements may stem from. Each domain may feel like their 'area' is being trampled on and each domain may feel that they know best. It gets touchy.

I rely on the speech therapists that I work with for their expertise in language development, but particularly on their expertise with the speech mechanism, and sound production. I have a good handle on language development, but also look to the speech therapists for developmental model, even if my model is not developmental. I also look to the speech therapist for guidelines on play as it relates to language development and appropriate development. ABA becomes a little more complicated for related service providers to follow as sometimes we follow an educational model, sometimes a developmental model, etc.

To help with the roles and responsibilities of the various team members, at the onset, I think it is important to identify what each team member hopes to bring to the team and what they want to accomplish. When areas are identified that may overlap, those issues can be addressed then and there and compromises and collaborative strategies can be made.

I become concerned when meeting with a school program for the first time, and speech pathologist is not a member of the team. No one domain has all the knowledge and all the answers to create a comprehensive program. Often what I see happening in these models, is parents seeking speech pathologist services in addition to their school program. If this ends up happening, my question becomes, does this program meet the needs of the child? If they can't, a change is needed.

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