In this episode of The Preschool Podcast, we connect with Rose Griffin, Speech-Language Pathologist, Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Founder of ABA Speech. Rose provides our listeners with tactile strategies to use in the classroom or at home with children who have autism or who have a language delay.
Rose’s Tips for Supporting Communication with Children who have Autism or Language Delays
Get the Ball Rolling on Assessments. As a parent or educator, if you suspect there may be a delay in language or development overall, consider seeking out external support and contacts for an official assessment. If services and resources are available and accessible, take advantage of them to start intervention early!
Work Closely with Your Providers. If you’re receiving treatment from professionals, make sure you’re on the same page to ensure your child is in the best position possible. Communicate with your child’s educators and families to keep everyone up to date on all progress.
Think Outside the Box. Rose states that “the number one thing to think about is helping your child or student communicate.” Consider implementing photos or visuals or teaching them sign language to communicate their needs. So, even if verbal communicate is not present or available, there are plenty of alternative ways to communicate.
Embed Reading and Literacy Activities Together. Even if verbal communication is not present, you can still enjoy books and other literacy activities together- this can help increase communication skills too! Consider reading books together 1 on 1 or as a class, children can still communicate their findings and observations through pointing and facial expression to convey understanding of the activity or story.
Support the Parents Too. As educators, we need to remember to support the families too. If a child is having trouble developing certain skills in child care, they’re likely experiencing these problems at home too. It’s important to communicate with families your observations and game plan to increase the child’s skills and seek input from the family to best support the child.
Connect with Rose!
Episode 258 Transcripts:
I think if we have those themes kind of embedded in our program, where we’re going to have that ongoing communication with parents, that we should be okay with, saying, like, “I know this is kind of difficult for your child. I noticed that they’re getting frustrated with their communication. Does this also happen at home? Can you talk to me about that?”
Rose, welcome to the Preschool Podcast!
Thanks so much for having me on!
We’re delighted to have on the show today Rose Griffin. She’s a speech language pathologist, a board-certified behavior analyst and founder of ABA Speech. Great to have you on the show, Rose. Let’s start off learning a little bit about you and how you got into language and speech. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Absolutely. So, I have been a speech therapist for 20 years. And I feel so old saying that, so I call myself a seasoned therapist. And I’ve been a board-certified behavior analyst for 10 of those years. I have always been really passionate about helping all students that I work with. I work with students from very young, as far as [age] 2 up through 22, is kind of my niche area.
And I always have felt passionate about helping students who are hard to reach. So, students who may engage in problem behavior that’s a barrier to their learning and students who maybe haven’t been receptive to traditional speech therapy. That’s always been my jam, is helping those students who are hard to reach.
And so I’ve always specialized in working in a public school program and then also working in a public program or ABA type center, Applied Behavior Analysis. And until I started my own business about four years ago, I always divided my time like that. But now with ABA Speech, I have a private practice as part of what we do. And so we see students here in the Ohio area where I’m based, but we also offer tele-therapy in 12 different states and abroad, depending on your country.
And so I’ve really specialized in that at ABA Speech. I started this company because I had an idea for a physical therapy product meeting flashcards that I created four years ago with the help of a designer. I had no idea what I was doing but I knew that I needed this material in my therapy room. And a lot of people I knew would want it, too.
And so that’s what started me on this path to creating my own business. At ABA Speech, we offer courses for parents and for professionals. We send therapy materials all across the world, [via] Amazon, through different distributors and on our own website.
And most recently, which I’m super excited about, is I started a podcast in January, called Autism Outreach. And on that podcast we talk all about autism and communication and we attack that from different angles. So, we’ve had autistic individuals on; we’ve had families who have an autistic individual in their family; we’ve had speech therapists on; occupational therapists, BCBA’s [board-certified behavior analysts], you name it. And I really love having that weekly show and also being on other podcasts. I really love connecting with others and talking about how to help autistic students with communication.
Very cool. And just a couple of questions to clarify some of that: board-certified behavior analyst. For those of us not familiar, what does that mean?
Yeah, so a board-certified behavior analyst is somebody who uses applied behavior analysis, which is the science of applied behavior analysis to help students. It’s not just for students with autism, it’s to help all different types of areas. And what you have to do is, you have to go back…
I already had a master’s in speech therapy, so I had to go back and I had to take 15 hours of postgraduate coursework. I had to accrue all these hours under the supervision of somebody who’s already a board-certified behavior analyst and take a standardized test that’s like a nationwide test. And so it’s very, very rigorous.
And that brings up a good point that I didn’t even mention, is that there’s less than 450 people worldwide that are both speech therapist and BCBA. So, it’s a close-knit group. I’m not saying I know all 450 people, but I do probably know 200 of them just meeting them through my online business and at different conferences and things.
And it’s been such a nice way to be able to help students with autism – and all my students, really – increase their communication skills and to be able to help people in such a very specific way.
So, would you say that’s the advantage of being both the speech language pathologist, as well as the board certified behavior analyst, is you’re more, I guess, able to work with these hard-to-reach students that you mentioned earlier?
Yes, it has definitely helped me feel more equipped to help students who maybe haven’t been able to start communicating despite being in traditional speech therapy. And so with my business, ABA Speech, it’s really nice because I have this platform, I’m on all different social media platforms – Instagram and LinkedIn, TikTok, – you name it, we’re doing it, disseminating information that way.
And so it’s nice because as a speech therapist I can talk with BCBA’s about communication and about how to collaborate effectively with speech therapists and vice versa. Because sometimes speech therapist may work on communication in a different way than BCBA’s might.
And so I really tried to build the bridge between all providers because we know that it takes a team to help students who have autism and to help any student with complex needs start communicating on their own. And so I love to be able to build that bridge between both professions.
Got it. Okay, that makes a ton of sense. And so for our listeners who are maybe early-childhood educators, or parents that might have children that they’re working with, or that are part of their families who have autism or a language delay but they’re not speech language pathologists or have necessarily the experience and education that you have, what are some ways that they can help support these children in their environments, whether that’s at home or the classroom?
Absolutely. My number one suggestion is, if you are listening and you’re a parent and you are worried about your child’s communication, is to definitely get the ball rolling so that you could get an assessment. You can potentially have your child receive services.
It’s really hard when kids are little to know. “My child is delayed. Is it a speech delay or is it autism?” And we might not even necessarily treat those things differently. I always treat students as they present with their characteristics of delay. But that’s a really big thing to think about, making sure that you trust your gut. If your doctor says, “Well, they might grow out of it,” or if you’ve got family weighing in, everybody has an opinion about something.
You have to trust your parental gut to just get the assessment, try to get services for your students. Because we know that when we provide early intervention, we can see such growth in students. I’ll never forget I worked one year that was just preschool. And I just… it was such a fascinating time because I would meet students who were not talking. And then by the end of the school year, I was exiting them from even having any type of special education services. And that was such a joy.
So, my number one recommendation would be to definitely seek intervention. And if your child is in intervention, is to make sure that you’re working closely with the providers. So, making sure that… I do a lot of in-home sessions for students and tele-therapy. And I coach parents because when you have a child who has a disability, it’s a lot; it’s overwhelming.
I mean, I can’t imagine what it feels like because I do have three kids of my own, but they are typically developing. And it’s just so much information. You want to help your child; you want to get them the supports that they need.
And so you need to really know your rights: know that you should be able to get intervention for your child; you should know that you should be able to observe those interventions, as well. And that’s the most important thing, is having that ongoing communication with providers so that you can help generalize and embed communication across your family routines throughout the day.
And we’ve talked a little bit about it on the Preschool Podcast before, but there’s quite a few folks out there who haven’t had the opportunity to, I guess, get a proper diagnosis or the proper resources or have that early intervention.
And sometimes, no matter sort of how much they’ve tried, just given that, quote unquote, “the system” isn’t quite there yet in some areas to help folks with that. In that case, what are some of the small things that you can do as a family or as an educator at home or in the class to help with that language development, I guess more directly if those supports aren’t there for you?
Absolutely. I think the number one thing to think about is helping your child or your student communicate. So, if they’re not verbally communicating, thinking about, “Could we teach this child to communicate with us using sign language? Or using a picture, like a visual that they would hand somebody to let them indicate their needs?”
We don’t want to see children feeling frustrated. So, if your child is not yet verbalizing, thinking about like, “Well, could we use pictures some way? Could we teach them sign language?” There’s a really cool website called www.LifePrint.com, and it has the different ASL [American sign language] signs. And so that might be a nice resource for people.
Another thing to think about is just trying to enjoy activities together as a family. And so I do this with my own kids. I have three different kids and everybody has their different reading requirement at school. My one daughter’s older, so she needs to read 20 minutes on her own. But my other kids are younger. So, I know that I want to try to embed literacy into their lives.
And what’s so nice about just thinking about working together to read a book as a family, there’s so much communication that goes into that joint attention where you’re sharing the activity. You’re in the activity together and it it’s just a nice activity. There’s a vocabulary building, there’s social communication. And so if you’re worried, I would say that’s the one thing I would try to do, is to embed reading or some type of literacy-based activity into your family routine.
And you don’t want to make yourself crazy. That’s the thing, too, is that parents, it’s hard. Being a parent, it’s really, really hard. You don’t want to make yourself crazy but you do want to try to embed those communication moments. And so if you’re trying to do that on your own, to be your child’s best support, I would think about, “How are they communicating now? How can you help support that? And then how can you have a shared activity?” And reading a book together is something that might be something nice to start with.
Cool. And in your experience, typically do families and parents come to you and say, “Hey, my gut says something might be a little bit off in my child’s development here. Can we work with you?” Or have you also been part of the early intervention? And where I’m going with this, is if you’re an early-childhood educator and you’re seeing more children of that age, you may be able to identify children who are not traditionally developing with speech and language, potentially earlier than parents. And sort of how do we approach that, or what are the recommendations in that case?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that… usually early intervention providers will have some type of embedded progress reporting or embedded way to have ongoing communication with parents about how the children are doing in whatever environment it is. And so if you’re listening and you’re an early intervention provider, I think systematically you should have those types of things already kind of embedded into your program, like where you look at developmental norms or you’re talking about milestones or you’re talking with the parents about, “How is your child communicating?”
Because when our kids are little, there’s just so many different things that can happen. I mean, you could have a child who completely is developing within normal limits, but maybe they have ear infections and those ear infections have caused them to have hearing problems. And then maybe it was COVID . So, then there’s a global pandemic and they haven’t got that tested. There’s all these things that can happen. Or maybe your child does have autism and maybe you’re on a wait list to get tested. There are so many different things that can come up.
But I think if we have those things kind of embedded in our program where we’re going to have that ongoing communication with parents, that we should be okay with, saying, “I notice that this is kind of difficult for your child. I notice that they’re getting frustrated with their communication. Does this also happen at home? Can you talk to me about that?”
Because I think that, as a parent, I would want to know that that’s happening during my child’s day. My son was in day care and they would write really specific notes about what was going on during the day. So, I think that that catching it early and making sure that we’re supporting not only the child, but also the parent, because if the child is having trouble in the day care setting or early intervention setting, I would imagine that they’re probably having those same troubles at home and that parents probably need support with communication and/or behavior and/or potty training, feeding all those things that we think about when we have little ones.
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And before we go to a couple of questions and wrap up, I guess just sort of more an open question of, anything else that you might want to touch on to our listeners – early-childhood educators, families out there – before we wrap up?
Yeah, I would urge everybody, if you haven’t done so already, to check out the podcast that we have. It’s called Autism Outreach. It comes out every single Tuesday and we talk all about autism and communication. And some of our most popular episodes have been about early intervention and working with students who may not even have autism, but just have a delay, have a speech and or language delay.
We have episodes about apraxia. We have episodes about students who just seem delayed and are hard to reach as far as therapy and are just not developing as a typical language learner would. And so we have a lot of really good episodes about, “What do we do? How do we support that student?”
The other thing that I love about the podcast is that I have a lot of parents on the podcast, too, because I work really closely with parents in my school-based position, but also in my private practice at ABA Speech.
And so I think sometimes it can be nerve wracking to be the provider and to work alongside parents because you want to make sure you’re answering all those questions. You want to make sure you’re doing your best. And sometimes it can be a little hard to have that open dialog. So, we have a lot of parents on the podcast who talk about their journey into autism and what that has been like for their families, how their children are doing, what intervention they’re providing for their children. And all the parents have something different to share.
And I think that’s what’s important, is that every single autistic individual, autistic family that’s touched by autism, everybody has their own story. And I know that when I’m going through something in my personal life or professional life, I like to hear from others who are facing something similar. And so it’s really just a great place to get good information about autism and communication.
Very cool. And while we’re on the subject, you’ve mentioned your podcast, Autism Outreach. You mentioned www.LifePrint.com for sign language resources. Any other resources you might recommend to our listeners who are looking for their own continued development and learning?
Absolutely. There’s a really great site, if you haven’t heard of it, it’s called www.AutismNavigator.com. And that is a really, really great site. If you are thinking that your child may have a delay or may have autism or you’re working with children with autism, it has really, really good information about characteristics of autism, how to support autistic individuals. And it’s just a really great site. If you haven’t checked that out, I would definitely give that a look, too.
Wonderful. Rose, thank you so much for joining us on the Preschool Podcast and for sharing some of your knowledge and experiences with us. Really enjoyed having you on the show.
Thanks so much for having me.
And Rose, if our listeners want to get more information about ABA Speech or get in touch with you, where can they go to get more information?
Absolutely, visit us at www.ABASpeech.org. We have a blog and a lot of wonderful resources. The podcast is also there, Autism Outreach. And if you love social media, visit me at @ABASpeechByRose. I put up a new post every single day and I put things in stories that are helpful, little sneak peeks from my therapy room.
Wonderful. Thanks so much for joining us, Rose!