There are several key developmental areas that speech therapists should be targeting when working with children who are on the autism spectrum.
When I’m at my private practice, there are always parents who bring in their child’s IEP and have me look at the goals and objectives. This usually occurs when their child stops making progress and they are concerned that goals are unattainable or inappropriate for the needs of their kid.
The goals can be broken down into categories:
Each goal should have a measurable component to it. This means, that at the end of a marking period, trimester or year, the child should be meeting certain characteristics of that goal.
For example, if the goal is to have your child sit during story time, a short term goal might be that for 5 minutes of story time three times a week your child will sit and pay attention with moderate verbal or tactile (touch) cues. The long term goal might be to have your child sit for 20 minutes of story time five times a week with minimal cues.
These goals should also be broken up depending on age. A one year old is not going to be able to sit for 20 minutes of story time with minimal cues by the end of the school year.
However, a three year old should be able to do that goal successfully. Of course, other disabilities or cognitive issues will play a role in how fast your child meets any educational goal that is placed in his/her IEP.
Joint attention is your child’s ability to focus on multiple items or actions at a time. For example, are they able to listen to the teacher while taking notes? Can they sit and listen to a story while completing a body movement, such as clapping?
Here are some specific goals that can be put into your child’s IEP:
This is another way to say the give and take in a social interaction. We know how to respond to other people’s interests and responses. Children who are on the spectrum do not have that instinctual notion.
Here are some examples of goals that could be included in the social reciprocity section of an IEP:
Language and cognition goals are anything that has to do with the understanding and use of the child’s native language. This can also include nonverbal communication, such as gesturing.
Here are some examples of language and cognitive goals:
This is one of the hardest areas for children who are on the spectrum to master because it’s the core of their diagnosis. This area relates to your child’s ability to understand his/her emotions, process them, communicate what they are feeling and learn how to cope with the emotions they are experiencing.
Sample behavioral and emotional goals can include:
Again, these are examples of goals that can be implemented in your child’s IEP. Make sure they are using goals that relate to your child’s areas of weaknesses and are attainable within a school term. Most of the goals that are suggested for this disorder need to be addressed in the home setting, as well. The more exposure they have to practice the goal, the quicker they will reach it.
Try and be as patient as possible and ask your therapist for a list of activities that you can address and target in the home environment. Finally, don’t shy away from activities in the community. This will be an integral part of your child addressing and sort of social deficit!
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