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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Masters Degrees’

Autism and the Effectiveness of Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Our understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorders has advanced rapidly in recent years. Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a family of neurodevelopmental conditions characterized by unusual patterns in social interaction, communication, and range of interests and activities. While this profile is generally applicable for the entire ASD population, much variation actually exists. No two individuals exhibit the exact same symptoms and as such, ASD is a heterogeneous disorder.

Autism spectrum disorders can often be reliably detected by the age of 3 years, and in some cases as early as 18 months. Studies suggest that many children eventually may be accurately identified by the age of 1 year or even younger. The appearance of any of the warning signs of ASD is reason to have a child evaluated by a professional specializing in these disorders.

By age 3, most children have passed predictable milestones on the path to learning language; one of the earliest is babbling. By the first birthday, a typical toddler says words, turns when he hears his name, points when he wants a toy, and when offered something distasteful, makes it clear that the answer is “no.”

Some children diagnosed with ASD remain non-verbal throughout their lives. Some infants who later show signs of ASD coo and babble during the first few months of life, but they soon stop. Others may be delayed, developing language as late as age 5 to 9. Some children may learn to use communication systems such as pictures or sign language.

Children who do speak often use language in unusual ways. They seem unable to combine words into meaningful sentences. Some speak only single words, while others repeat the same phrase over and over. Some ASD children mimic what they hear, a condition called echolalia. Even though there are children with no ASD who go through a stage where they repeat what they hear, it usually is gone by the time they are 3.

Some mildly affected children may have minor delays in language. Some seem to be very verbal with unusually large vocabularies, but have great difficulty in sustaining a conversation. The usual “give and take” of conversation is difficult for them. They often carry on a monologue on a favorite subject, giving no one else an opportunity to comment. They have other difficulties including the inability to understand body language, tone of voice, or “phrases of speech.” Sarcastic expression might often be misinterpreted. For example, if someone tells them, “Oh, that’s just great,” they would take the words literally, believing the speaker meant to tell them that it really IS great.

The body language of ASD children is also difficult to understand. Facial expressions, movements, and gestures rarely match what they are saying. Also, their tone of voice fails to reflect their feelings. A high-pitched, sing-song, or flat, robot-like voice is common. Some children with relatively good language skills speak like little adults, and do not pick up on the “kid-talk” approach so common with their peers.

People with ASD are at a loss to let others know what they need because they cannot make understandable gestures or lack the language to ask for things. Because of this, some may simply yell or just take what they want without asking. ASD children have great difficulty learning how to get through to others and express their needs. As ASD children grow up, they become more cognizant of their difficulties in understanding others and in making themselves understood, which can result in more anxiety, depression or maladaptive behaviors.

Studies show that augmentative devices are a great help in fostering language in children with autism and other disabilities, and have achieved remarkable results.

Augmentative communication is all of the ways we communicate other than speech. It includes:  Gestures  Sign Language  Vocalizations  Facial Expression  Communication Displays (boards)  Communication Devices A group of aids, starting from simple, notebook-size plastic boxes to more high-tech devices that resemble an IPod or BlackBerry, has been developed to help those with autism to express their needs. These devices range in price from about $100 to several thousand dollars. Most are portable and the simpler ones are also very durable and well-constructed, a real advantage for children with autism.

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices are tools to allow people with severe or significant speech impairments to express themselves. These devices are used as a method to allow children to exactly say what they want and as fast as they can. It’s a valuable communicator that allows them to express their feelings, thoughts, ideas and get their needs met. These devices can range from low tech picture cards to high end speech generating devices.

However, regardless of low or high tech, the most important questions about the suitability of an AAC Device is: • can the person say precisely what they want • can they say it quickly

A New Al Chayt

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Master of the Universe, I am filled with remorse and compunction. My head is bowed in shame, my hands tremble, and my heart overflows with trepidation as I approach you with my abject confession of guilt. As I consider the nature of my heinous offense, self-loathing surges throughout my being, my pitiful human vessel barely able to contain the turbulent roiling of my besmirched soul. I engage in endless rounds of self-flagellation and castigate myself mercilessly in a desperate attempt to uproot the evil within me, but surcease eludes me. How could I have caused my sweet, good and innocent son such needless suffering? Do not smite him, O Lord; smite me instead, because it is I who has sinned, not he. Why should he suffer the consequences of my own hand? Dear G-d, I beseech you…. please. Please, please forgive my unpardonable crime of using plastic tablecloths on Shabbos instead of the more righteous way…sending my fancy tablecloths to the cleaners each week for a mere $50.00 so I will be deemed elegant by the powers that be.

I did not know, dear Lord, that–with what I hoped was thrift and economy as prescribed and praised in the Eishet Chayil paean– I would be torpedoing my son’s chances of a good shidduch. My son is a gem, Hashem, a brilliant full-time learner who has somehow managed to squeeze in two Masters Degrees at night and volunteer work with Chai Lifeline and Tomchei Shabbos, but these accomplishments, it appears, are minor when compared to my glaring lack of elegance. How can I even bear to go on living, O’ dear Lord, when I am besieged daily by the painful knowledge that I’ve ruined my son’s shidduch possibilities because my priorities as a mother were wrong. How could I have been so naive, so clueless? I truly believed that what mattered most was laboring hard to inculcate within my son an inspiring array of great middos, wonderful values and ideals, and sincere frumkeit; helping to develop and nurture within him curiosity about the world, a calm temperament and good-natured manner, exceptional intelligence and a charming personality. How could I have emphasized the tofel to such an extent and degree? What was wrong with me? Why didn’t my friends, relatives and neighbors caution me as they watched my missteps, intervene to impede my destructive, ways, steer me towards a different…and better direction? Why didn’t they disabuse me of my ill-conceived perspectives and lecture me on the realities of life…and shidduchim. Why didn’t they just tell me straight out that in our world surface trumps substance, and that what really counts in life is the surface of your Shabbos table. Could they not have taken me aside and explained that ultimately plastic kills, and that what’s really consequential in life is whether the mother scrapes or stacks?

How could I have failed to glean the genuine essence of life, O Lord? I thought I was following the path of the pious in teaching my son to be kind, courteous and loving to everyone he met; to stand up for the elderly and pregnant women on the bus, to carry the groceries of overburdened neighbors when he met them on the street, to offer rides to strangers pummeled by the rain. I thought his learning, his frumkeit, his refinement, his tenacity and hard work would stand him in good stead, make him an excellent shidduch prospect. I imagined that in the eyes of the world he would be admired, viewed as a gem and great catch. How can I atone for my sin, Master of the Universe? Unwittingly, I have tarnished my son’s value because of my own errant ways. I promise you I was unaware that I was violating the most cardinal rule in the shidduch world: “Under all circumstances, thou shalt always be elegant.”

I confess: I thought sending a fancy tablecloth to the cleaners every single week was akin to being a profligate, recklessly extravagant and unnecessary. I never realized that an almost imperceptible overlay of thin plastic could have such far-reaching and dire consequences. I was able to host the masses of unexpected guests my husband typically brought home from shul with a certain degree of sangfroid, because I didn’t have to fuss over worries that the tablecloth would get stained or the lavish china would chip (sin #2, after a while, I began to retire the china in lieu of fancy paper plates). With material concerns absent, I was able to field some pretty chaotic scenes with unusual calm and peace. Instead of worrying about the state of my house, I was able to focus on the state of my guests instead. Hashem, sincerely, I thought that was a good thing, truly I did. Wasn’t it more important to be attentive to my guests’ emotional needs than to have to peer anxiously each time they raised a glass to their lips? How could I have ever dreamed that my son would be punished for my sins of omission, and be rendered less estimable, because his mother doesn’t like washing dishes?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/potpourri/a-new-al-chayt/2012/01/05/

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