Articles

Articles written by Marge Blanc MA, CCC-SLP appearing in the Autism Asperger's Digest.

(Adobe Acrobat required, click here to go to the adobe website for a free download)


"Use Your Words!" (2013)

Echolalia on the Spectrum: The Natural Path to Self-Generated Language

Autism and First Words


Bringing It Home: Physical Supports for Speech at Home and in Other Environments
(2012)

It's All Gibberish to Me: Redefining "Non-verbal" (2011)

More Than Words (Parts 1-6) (2010)
Before the Words
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
In the Beginning ... was the Conversation!
Laughter: The Universal Language of Childhood
First Words: Their Real Significance to Language Development
Grammar: How and When to Teach It

Finding the Words ... to Self-Regulate! (Parts 1-5) (2009)

Finding the Words ... With Augmented Communication (Parts 1-5) (2008/2009)

Finding the Words ... When Our Kids Experience "Wordlessness" (Parts 1-3) (2007/2008)

Finding the Words ... When They're "In There" Somewhere! (Parts 1-4) (2007)
Helping your child retrieve the language he knows.

Finding the Words ... When They are Pictures! (Parts 1-4) (2006)
Helping your visual child become verbal.

Finding the Words ... When It's Hard to Find Your Voice! (Parts 1-2) (2006)
Helping your child with dyspraxia.

Finding the Words ... To Tell the "Whole" Story (Parts 1-4) (2005)
Natural Language Acquisition on the Autism Spectrum

When Speech Gets Stuck (Parts 1-2) (2004)
A hierarchy of practical supports for dyspraxia in children with ASD.

Ask the Experts (2004)
Child-Directed Language Therapy.

In case you missed it:

Articles for 2017 ASHA, Los Angeles

Natural Language Acquisition: 1 Page Parent Friendly Handout
Natural Language Acquisition: Summary and Scoring
Natural Language Acquisition: Blank Scoring Pages
Developmental Sentence Analysis: Assessment Procedure
Developmental Sentence Scoring: Blank Scoring Pages
Echolalia on the Spectrum: the Natural Path to Self Generated Language

In case you missed it:

2015 ASHA Convention, Colorado Convention Center

Minimally-speaking kids with autism — the success stories!

Our clinic has been supporting kids' speech access for over 15 years: their development from breath support to phonation to intonation to vowels — and then to consonants and clarifying their connected speech.

Starting with physical support of deep breathing, our clinicians help kids coordinate airflow with voice, with vowels, and then series of consonants — as they move up the hierarchy of supports for dyspraxia. Published as When Speech Gets Stuck in the Autism Asperger's Digest in 2004, the hierarchy provides a reliable framework for supporting our kids as they progress.

Marge is partnering with Lillian Stiegler, Southeastern Louisiana University, whose 2007 article illustrates a qualitative protocol for documenting communicative intent in such children: "Discovering Communicative Competencies in a Nonspeaking Child With Autism."

Joining their methodologies in this presentation, Marge Blanc and Lillian Stiegler will give case examples of both the 'hierarchy' and Conversation Analysis in action.

Blending research and clinical practice, this session will present assessment and treatment methods that fit naturally into the lives of our kids and their families.

If you're at ASHA, this presentation should not be missed: Severe Motor Speech Challenges in ASD: Using Conversational Analysis to Discover Meaning and Communicative Intent.

2015 ASHA Convention Schedule


Superstar of November

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We’ve had the pleasure of knowing ‘B’ and his family for a long time. His mom is known as the world’s best cook, his big sister as the protector, his little brother as the dinosaur guy – and his dad as the master mechanic. B and his dad have a lot in common, and although he lives several hours away, his dad is one of B’s constant sources of inspiration. To keep him close when he’s away, B has been sharing his favorite dad/son scene with us, reenacting it on the trampoline, complete with hand gestures, sound effects, and stage directions. Running around the trampoline together, B and one of the clinicians played out a part of the scene when the dinosaur chases them in their car, all the while composing a story that another clinician wrote out for the book he was creating.

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B has always been an impressive communicator, but his access to his great language varies quite a lot. He has always made the most of every session he has attended at CDC, finding ways to communicate even when he doesn’t have the best vocal access. He will rise above any challenges that he may be facing, and comes into clinic knowing he will find the help he needs to get to his optimal regulation and his team will support him wherever he is.


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B has always shown his love for his CDC friends in everything he does. Proof of that came recently when B dared to advocate for himself, even when his friends had different ideas. Recently, B combined his two favorite activities: watching his funny movie clip, and Legos. He had the idea to make a book of the lego stickers he had found, and soon it became a team project. B directed a selected team member to do a particular task, such as tracing a piece of tape. Soon, B had his whole team coloring together with him, each taking part through individual tasks, but working towards a common goal. B clarified with his friends that this was a very important book to him, and advocated for himself and his play partner when another team member inserted a rather random idea.

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B’s ever evolving speech and language progress and his social skills continue to impress his team and family. He has a spark and a desire to communicate that he is able to fulfill in several different ways, depending upon the day. Whether that is using voice, intonation, or having the confidence to self-advocate, B’s team is always ready to take part in his creative endeavors.

Superstar of December



This month's superstar is Benjamin Carter, who's been our friend and supporter since he was a kid. He often leaves toys and decorations for others in the clinic to enjoy. Ben is
now a young man you thinks a lot about others — particularly the animals of our planet.

This year, Ben wrote several Christmas letters. The last one may make you cry, but the Paris Agreement from the Paris Climate Change Conference may give us hope.

Dear Jingle Bells: Merry Christmas!

Dear Elves: Merry Christmas!

Dear Santa: Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas!

Dear Polar Bears: I think you are getting scared
...
Merry Christmas!









Meet Finley!

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We always say that moms and dads know best. Parents are the ones who know when their kids are developing language in ways that don't seem quite typical. Such was the case with Kayleigh. She knew something was a little "off" with her son's language, but no one really believed her. Then she discovered Natural Language Acquisition, read a couple of case studies on our website, and wrote to say to us that we were "describing her son."

We then carried on a long distance correspondence (across the ocean because Kayleigh lives in Great Britain), and she reports in every couple months with Finley's progress.

Here, in her own words, is Finley's story:

I first began noticing that Finley had difficulties communicating when he was around 2 years old, up until then people were amazed at his fantastic vocabulary and even told me I had a chatterbox on my hands. He had 10+ words at 14 months which grew to over 60 by 20 months...it was the next stage of communicating that seemed to stump him. Even Dr's, Health Visitors, Pediatricians alike all commented on how well he was progressing and saw no signs of difficulty. However reassuring it is to hear a professional say how well your child is developing I couldn't not listen to my own personal Finley professional - Me - my mothers intuition was ringing its very own alarm bells. 

Now, Google is a scary open window and its definitely a double edged sword...but the first thing that I ever googled was 'Do Children have different language learning styles'. The answer is yes, and for 2 years I never got the answer I endlessly searched for until I spoke to the team at CDC. For me I knew that Finley was learning the act of labeling words with a combination of sounds, he could say anything and everything you asked him to repeat. He even said single words spontaneously but then there seemed to be a huge leap. He went from these single words to saying phrases, not the typical TV talk phrases you associate with Echolalia but everyday, very contextual Echolalia. Finley was a master of using these phrases at the appropriate times and still is. As with many children on the spectrum he suffers with acute anxiety, especially when separating from my husband and I. A phrase Finley used a lot when he was younger was 'Don't need to worry about it', but he used this phrase as his single and only expression when he was worried or anxious. He never said 'I feel nervous,' 'Finley scared,' etc. He had echoed very cleverly me saying to him 'Finley you don't need to worry about it' whenever he was anxious. He would spend his days at nursery saying to the teachers 'Mummy coming home soon,' simply changing the statement 'Mummy's coming home soon' that they would say to him when he was sad. 

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When I spoke with professionals here in the UK and expressed my concerns, they assessed Finley's language based on how many words per sentence he could say, and at 2 years old he could say up to 8! So if anything they were very impressed, ticked the relevant boxes and left me to keep searching for answers. All I could say is that his language never felt free, he had so much language and could communicate quite well but day-to-day I never heard anything new. I began transcribing Finley's speech for a full day every few months to document progress, and also as my own little pieces of evidence to collect to show people how he was interacting and how it just wasn't how it should be. Being dismissed time after time not only is very disheartening but I was also a first time Mum with a myriad of concerns, I was beginning to look like a crazed neurotic Mother. 

Whilst in the midst of trying to get answers from anyone who would listen I opted to do my own research, I had read about Echolalia before but never in as much depth as I had until I found Marge's website. It felt like I had hit the jackpot when I read about Natural Language Acquisition, I sat and read article after article in disbelief. It was as though Marge had met, assessed and helped Finley personally the stories fit him that accurately. That very day it changed my view, a mother worrying her son would never communicate effectively, never have anyone understand him, to a totally relieved Mum who saw that this was a natural process, he is learning language and best of all it took away the worry of uncertainty that made my heart ache every day. 
Luckily after being in touch with the team I received the book 'Natural Language Acquisition on the Autism Spectrum' and not too sound over the top, but truthfully this book has changed my life. It has become my lifeline and a constant reminder on tough days that this is all natural and he is working as hard as he can to learn language. The detailed breakdown of each stage of echolalia really helped me asses Finley's development myself. Some days he uses much more gestalt phrases and doesn't seem to test out his new language and other days I think he sounds like a typical 4 year old. This book is a must have for any parent who's child has similar symptoms, here in the UK this development process isn't very well known and many will not be offered help as Finley wasn't. Take charge, you understand, you are the professional of your own child and this book will give you the much needed tools and the confidence to feel assured they are developing just as children on the spectrum do.

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Finley is now 4 and still uses a lot of Echolalia, it is mostly mitigated but he is beginning to introduce his own spontaneous grammar. As his gestalts are still so cleverly mitigated and used the majority of time in context, passers by and even family and friends still don't see anything untoward. He is happy, smiley and totally awesome. I am so excited to see what the future holds for him, he still isn't at the stage where we can converse freely about everything but when I  compare him to this time a year ago he is a different boy. He is making amazing progress, but without access to the information of the book I would have no idea just how amazingly he has done.

Even today he shows me just how much he has developed, this time a year ago he would have clung to his 'don't need to worry about it' phrase when nervous. But today after a busy morning out at a local dance group, then a small trip into the supermarket he exclaimed proudly "I'm so stressed Mummy" (he did sound about 35 ha) but he was right he was. And even with him feeling so unsettled he was able to find the language and tell me he had had enough and needed to come home to re-charge :) 

He also said the cutest thing the other night; so cute I've kept it written down so I never forget. I was putting him to bed and he said "I've got a heart in my eyes because I love you" he means he is the heart eyes emoji! That boy :D it's also one of the 1st times he made a statement and gave a reason for it!

Below is some of Finely’s speech samples the mother has recorded, a month before he left the nursery, which was causing anxiety and negative language, and then a month after he left.

Finley Feb 2016 - this was when his language was very negative before he left nursery. 

'Mummy Mummy lets go on for the ladder'
'I don't know where it's arms' 
'You gotta make a gun'
You Gotta mane a monster thing' 
'I can't do that'
'I can't make a gun'
'I can't do it' 
'errrm can't do the building blocks' 
'You can't turn him in a dog'
'Turn in 5 jelly'
'I turn not jelly' 
'He not joining in with me' 
'I got my wings' 

Finley's speech 1 month later March 2016 when he had left nursery. 

'We can build it you want?'
'Let's take Sully out, he can go to bed' 
'We can do some this one' 
'Put this one this way'
'Now we got, where the sign is?'
'Yes, that means you brake you stop'
'Can I put train' 
'Yes this train'
'Because you got to have a yellow sign' 
'It's a train coming'
'Where’s it gone?'
'Where the green one' 
'A green sign that make it go'

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