Missouri State University
Project ACCESS
Your Statewide Resource for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Speech Generating Devices

Use of Speech Generating Devices is an evidence-based practice applicable to learners from preschool through high school. These devices fall under the broader umbrella of Augmentative and Alternative Communication or AAC.

The Missouri Autism Guidelines Initiative (MAGI) manual on Autism Spectrum Disorders: Guide to Evidence-based Interventions describes Speech Generating Devices as follows: electronic, portable devices used to teach learners communicative skills and provide a means of communication.

Seems easy enough…buy a device, program it, and give it to the learner. Well, there is more to it than that, and Project ACCESS staff has some suggestions for optimal use of speech generating devices.

Dedicated Device

We have found that a multi-use device such as an iPad or tablet really needs to be dedicated to communication. That limits the use of the device for other applications, but a learners ‘voice’ needs to be available at all times-just like a human voice. When learners are switching back forth between the communication app and other apps, this limits their communicative opportunities! Some of our learners have two devices: one for communication and one for other applications.

Level of Difficulty

We recommend not purchasing the most expensive and complicated application or device on the market, at least initially. We have two reasons for this suggestion. First, if you get something too complicated and time consuming for you and the learner, you won’t use it. We have seen far too many devices on shelves not being used for their intended purpose. Secondly, try some cheaper or free applications. This will help determine the features that work for an individual learner. If a device, rather than a tablet, is the target, borrow first! This will save lots of time, money and frustration.


Using a tablet or a device can be a challenge. Consider motivation when planning vocabulary. Which phrase is more motivating to an early elementary learner? I need to go to the bathroom? or Hey, come and play Legos with me. Think about what motivates your individual learner. Provide play vocabulary. We know one speech pathologist who noticed the little girls at her school were playing cheerleader. She programmed some cheers into the device, so her learner could play, too! This little girl was very motivated to use her device! Be a student of what the others in the environment are doing.

Communication Partners

Train communication partners to use the device, also. If mom accesses the vocabulary, she is providing a model as well as using the same language modality as the child.

Accept all Communication

Learners do not have to be limited to their devices or tablets. If they have a few words, great. If they sign a little, accept that too. If they’re pointing to something, that’s also communication. Communication involves a system, not just an electronic tool.

You can download the MAGI guidelines from this link: www.autismguidelines.dmh.mo.gov

You can check into borrowing devices; visit the following link to find out about device loans: http://at.mo.gov/.

©Project ACCESS – 2017 – Terri Carrington, M.A., CCC- SLP
#GeneralAutismInformation   #ProjectACCESSfactsheet
This fact sheet and other #AutismResources, #AutismTraining and #AutismSupportServices information may be found on our website:  projectaccess.missouristate.edu

Bloggers note: Pyramid Education Consultants will be presenting Transitioning from PECS to SGDs (Speech Generating Devices) in Springfield, MO on June 16, 2017. Visit this link for more information:  PECS to SGDs





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How to Complete the Project ACCESS Online Version of “Introduction to the Education of Students with Autism”

Are you interested in the free Project ACCESS online training “Introduction to the Education of Students with Autism” but not sure what the course involves? We’ve created this video as a tutorial for how to navigate the training and to give you an idea of what to expect: 

If you have any questions, please contact us at 866-481-3841 or mailto:projectaccess@missouristate.edu   

Also, please remember to visit our website for additional training, support services and resources information:  projectaccess.missouristate.edu

#AutismTraining  #Podcast

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#PAFollowTheReader ~ our weekly book recommendation: Sensory Processing 101

 Sensory Processing 101 by Dayna Abraham, Claire Heffron, Pamela Braley, and Lauren Drobnjak

From the description:  Whether you are a parent, educator, caregiver, or therapist, this easy-to-read guide is your starting point to gain a better understanding of sensory processing and the body’s sensory systems.   Sensory Processing 101 contains simple explanations about sensory processing, creative and engaging sensory activities for kids, and reproducible sensory resources – all in one place so you can find what you’re looking for quickly and easily.

Visit the following web page for more information:  Sensory Processing 101


Other #AutismResources, #AutismTraining and #AutismSupportServices information may be found on our website:  projectaccess.missouristate.edu

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#PAFollowTheReader ~ our weekly book recommendation: How Do I Teach This Kid? Visual Work Tasks for Beginning Learners on the Autism Spectrum

How Do I Teach This Kid? Visual Work Tasks for Beginning Learners on the Autism Spectrum by Kimberly A. Henry

From the description:

First Runner-Up in the 2006 Writer’s Notes Book Awards, this book utilizes the strengths of children with ASD to help them develop new skills. Tasks are visually oriented, consistent; expectations are clear. Using easy-to-make “task boxes” children learn:
  • motor
  • matching
  • sorting
  • reading
  • writing
  • and math skills
Tasks include:
  • pushing items through a small openings (children love the “resistance” it takes to push them through)
  • matching simple, identical pictures or words
  • sorting objects by color, size, or shape.
Ideas are plentiful, materials colorful, and children love the repetitive nature of the tasks, which help them learn to work independently! Sample data sheets are included.
Visit the following link for more information about this book:  How Do I Teach This Kid?
Other #AutismResources, #AutismTraining and #AutismSupportServices information may be found on our website:  projectaccess.missouristate.edu



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No Such Thing as “Autistic Behaviors” and the “High Functioning” Label Is Not Helpful

Project ACCESS Autism Resource Specialist, Shannon Locke, M.S., CCC-SLP, produced a podcast to coincide with her handout on “No Such Thing as ‘Autistic Behaviors’ and the ‘High Functioning’ Label is Not Helpful. Download the handout at the following link:  No Such Thing 

Watch as Shannon  discusses the 7 IT Factors from Dr. Barry Prizant’s book Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism:

  • Empathy
  • The human factor
  • Sensitivity
  • Shared Control
  • Humor
  • Trust
  • Flexibility

and the 5 parameters for effective intervention in adaptive behavior, from Dr. Peter Gerhardt, Organization for Autism Research (OAR):

  • Context – Where instruction takes place
  • Intensity – How often instruction takes place
  • Efficiency – What is the response effort/equivalence associated with instruction
  • Transfer of control – Where does stimulus control lie
  • Value – Why might this skill be important to the student


For more information, please contact Project ACCESS at 866-481-3841 or mailto:projectaccess@missouristate.edu or visit our website at: projectaccess.missouristate.edu

#AutismResources  #Podcast



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Preparing for Life After High School (LAHS) ~ Thinking Beyond Grades…

What are the essential skills for success? Will good grades be necessary… or enough? After 12th Grade the world is a much less predictable place with never-ending possibilities and/or pitfalls.  This can be overwhelming and difficult to navigate for individuals with ASD as they grow into young adults. What will really prepare them for what lies ahead? These are questions that ALL parents (and educators) face, but seem especially prominent for loved ones of individuals with ASD and other disabilities.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), barriers to employment or success in the workplace and higher education come from poor performance of skills coined “soft skills”. Those identified by ODEP include: Communication, Enthusiasm & Attitude, Teamwork (Collaboration), Networking, Problem Solving & Critical Thinking, and Professionalism. [Check out the ODEP website for a free curriculum: https://www.dol.gov/odep/topics/youth/softskills/ focusing on these areas.]

In addition, private business organizations like the Business News Daily, LinkedIn, U.S. News, and The Graduate School at the University of Cincinnati all report “Top 5” or “Top 10 Soft Skills” needed for college or job success.  Good communication skills are usually first in EVERY list, along with some form of good teaming, problem-solving, and organization/planning skills. In fact, the National Soft Skills Association reported it has been 100 years since the concept of 85% soft skills to 15 % hard skills was identified for job success. Vicki Nelson, founder of www.collegeparentcentral.com, confirms “College readiness consists of many things, but goes well beyond high school courses taken and grades received”.  She further encourages parents to take the lead in helping their students learn these critical soft skills through personal experiences. She emphasized the need to “…start early with your child in helping develop these skills within the family context.” 

Unlike hard skills, which describe a person’s technical skill set and ability to perform specific tasks, soft skills are broadly applicable across jobs and industries. Knowing how to get along with people – and displaying a positive attitude – are crucial for success. The problem is, the importance of these soft skills is often undervalued or underrepresented in general education curriculums and statewide Standards so there is far less direct training provided for them than hard skills. Typically developing students are expected to develop soft skills by their experiences rather than direct teaching, so it can be a difficult shift for special educators outside of their regular education curriculums.

We at Project ACCESS address these “soft skills” in cognitive-language terms, including three primary cognitive functions; Executive Functioning, Theory of Mind, and Central Cohesion along with skills facilitating Self-Management. An individual’s success in these four broad cognitive-language areas are the underlying mechanisms that impact an individual’s communication, motivation, interaction with others, and problem solving ability. Further, we believe (and teach public educators in Missouri) that preparing for LAHS starts when a child starts school so that these skills can be incorporated from day 1. Through family experiences and good educational programming across children’s school careers these prerequisite soft skills can develop.

Executive Functioning: The term Executive Functioning (EF) comes from neuroscience literature, and refers to the brain-based skills required for humans to execute, or perform, tasks. EF deficit is not a medical diagnosis or an education disability category and are not connected in any way to intelligence. Here is a list of specific soft skills that make up EF in their order of developmental emergence:

  • Response inhibition; controlling impulses; and self-monitoring
  • Working memory
  • Emotional control, including social control
  • Sustained attention and focusing
  • Task initiation
  • Planning / prioritization
  • Sequencing / organization
  • Time management
  • Goal-directed persistence
  • Flexibility
  • Metacognition (thinking about thinking, recognizing what you already know and don’t know)

Harvard University, Center on the Developing Child narrows these describing EF with Self-regulation through three types of brain function: working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control. They suggest that “adults can facilitate the development of a child’s EF skills by establishing routines, modeling social behavior, and creating and maintaining supportive, reliable relationships.” 

An intact Theory of Mind (ToM) allows an individual to guess what others are thinking (empathy), then tailor their own responses accordingly. Intact Central Coherence allows an individual to see the whole picture and guess the details, or to see the details of a situation and guess the whole picture. Absence of ToM and Central Cohesion renders a person with “mind blindness” or “context blindness” in social situations. Finally, are the necessary Self-Management skills which Include emotional self-regulation, self-awareness, and self-advocacy skills. These are the necessary skills that will really make the difference in an individual’s success following High School!

While Transition assessments used by schools to determine student readiness for LAHS focus on more traditionally academic skills or achievement, we believe addressing these underlying cognitive-language abilities throughout a child’s school career will be more accurately predictive of future success For example, transition assessments test different curricular areas, such as functional writing and reading, math, money and finance, and speaking and listening, as well as fine and gross motor skills and adaptive functioning on daily living and self-help tasks. But if we look at the specific daily living, self-help skill of personal hygiene, from a cognitive-language perspective, we would focus on goals for Self-Awareness to teach individuals to be aware of their own state of cleanliness in relation to understanding how their sense of personal hygiene will be perceived by others from goals to improve Theory of Mind or perspective-taking. For more information, you can check out our Fact Sheets on these and other skills on our website missouristate.edu/access

Also, a quick look at necessary “hard skills” identified by professionals in the Transition Coalition (http://transitioncoalition.org/): physical stamina, work pace, works neatly and accurately, sticks to a task, works to improve performance, completes work on time, and follows directions. These may sound like more familiar skills addressed in your student’s school program, but certainly should not be overlooked.


*For more information, find our Fact Sheets at the Project ACCESS website www.missouristate.edu/access/

*Project ACCESS Fact Sheet 39 Executive Functioning Skills: What Are You Talking About?


*Harvard University, Center on the Developing Child Article and overview video available at: http://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/executive-function/

*http://www.nationalsoftskills.org/top-10-soft-skills-for-success/. Example, The Graduate School at the University of Cincinnati top ten list: Dependability, Motivation/Initiative, Communication, Commitment, Creativity, Problem Solving, Flexibility, Teamwork, Leadership, & Time Management https://grad.uc.edu/student-life/news/soft-skills.html.

*Business News Daily reported results of a LinkedIn analysis determining another list of the top ten soft skills most in demand by employers: good communicator, well organized, team player, punctual, critical thinker, social, creative, interpersonal skills, easily adapts, friendly personality.

*U.S.News reports on the top 5 soft skills every college student needs http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/college-admissions-playbook/2014/05/12/hone-the-top-5-soft-skills-every-college-student-needs collaboration, communication and interpersonal skills, problem-solving, time management, and leadership.

*https://www.collegeparentcentral.com/2011/12/soft-skills-strong-readiness-fifteen-skills-your-student-needs-to-be-college-ready/ founded and written by Vicki Nelson, college parent survivor, college professor, academic advisor and administrator.

*Brigance Transition Skills Inventory (TSI), Enderle-Severson Transition Rating Scale (ESTR), Transition Planning Inventory–Second Edition (TPI-2), The Secondary School Success Checklist (SSSC) 2013.

Top 10 Employability Skills

  1. Communication skills — Listening, speaking and writing. Employers want people who can accurately interpret what others are saying and organize and express their thoughts clearly.
  2. Teamwork — In today’s work environment, many jobs involve working in one or more groups. Employers want someone who can bring out the best in others.
  3. Analytical and problem-solving skills — Employers want people who can use creativity, reasoning and past experiences to identify and solve problems effectively.
  4. Personal management skills — The ability to plan and manage multiple assignments and tasks, set priorities and adapt to changing conditions and work assignments.
  5. Interpersonal effectiveness — Employers usually note whether an employee can relate to co-workers and build relationships with others in the organization.
  6. Computer/technical literacy — Although employers expect to provide training on job-specific software, they also expect employees to be proficient with basic computer skills.
  7. Leadership/management skills — The ability to take charge and manage your co-workers, if required, is a welcome trait. Most employers look for signs of leadership qualities.
  8. Learning skills — Jobs are constantly changing and evolving, and employers want people who can grow and learn as changes come.
  9. Academic competence in reading and math — Although most jobs don’t require calculus, almost all jobs require the ability to read and comprehend  instructions and perform basic math.
  10. Strong work values — Dependability, honesty, self confidence and a positive attitude are prized qualities in any profession. Employers look for personal integrity.

©Project ACCESS – Shannon Locke, M.S., CCC-SLP; 2017
Bloggers note:  An edited version of this article is printed in the May/June issue of Missouri Autism Report at the following link:  MAR

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Computer Aided Instruction

Computer Aided Instruction (CAI) is an evidence-based practice used widely in schools and homes today. Computer programming has been studied to include the teaching of both academic and communication skills. While computer usage is highly motivating to learners, including those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), usage is only one component within an individualized program.

Studies specific to academics have focused on developing vocabulary and grammar usage. Communication studies have focused primarily on communicative functions and initiations. Evidence is available for learners from 3 to 18 years.

Why is CAI appropriate for many students with ASD?

  • Results are predictable and feedback is immediate.
  • There is a lack of the social and verbal ambiguity often associated with face-to-face instruction
  • Avoids sensory overload
  • Learners may work at their own pace
  • Programming may be individualized and customized
  • Learner attention may be increased

What are the education benefits of CAI?

  • Learners may display increased motivation and attention
  • There may be a decrease in challenging behaviors
  • Time on task may increase
  • Increased learning may occur

Adapted from: http://etec.ctlt.ubc.ca/510wiki/Using_Computer-Aided_Instruction_in_Teaching_Students_with_Autism_Spectrum_Disorder

Project ACCESS offers the following suggestions when providing CAI:

  • Be sure there is a well-thought-out plan in place. Left to chance, technology in classrooms or at home can interfere with the social opportunities crucial to learners with ASD.
  • Use the technology, but be careful that it is scheduled and purposeful—not something to just play with or fill time. Students should know the plan. Technology, and specifically CAI, is an important component in programming for students with ASD, but it is most useful when planned and used accordingly.  

Ø Software choices for computer usage changes rapidly, so it is difficult to recommend something specifically. Make sure the software chosen matches the individual student’s goals. Additionally, staff members need to familiarize themselves with the software, so they can troubleshoot and be available to assist. Some software allows for data management, while teachers will have to collect and monitor data for others.

©Project ACCESS – 2017 – Terri Carrington, M.A., CCC-SLP
New #ProjectACCESSfactsheet    #Evidence-based Intervention  #MAGI
This fact sheet and other #AutismResources, #AutismTraining and #AutismSupportServices information may be found on our website:  http://projectaccess.missouristate.edu

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#PAFollowTheReader ~ our weekly book recommendation: The Integrated Self-Advocacy ISA® Curriculum

The Integrated Self-Advocacy ISA® Curriculum by Valarie Paradiz, Ph.D.

From the description: Self-advocacy plays a vital role in nearly every aspect of life for individuals on the spectrum, in school, at home, in the community and at work. The more self-awareness they possess, the more they can be players in advocating for their own comfort, happiness and well-being. Yet, children and adults with autism spectrum and related conditions often receive limited support in these vital life skills. This is because people have little time to develop thoughtful, person-centered materials and tools, or simply have no clue how to begin to provide this kind of support. This cutting-edge curriculum helps professionals and family members provide safe forums for self-discovery, structured learning activities and a cumulative understanding of the many facets of self-advocacy. The ISA® Curriculum presents 11 units with detailed lesson plans, worksheets and activities, including scanning sensory and social environments, identifying how and when to self-disclose, exploring the history of autism, studying role models with ASD, developing media literacy on topics involving autism and cultivating deep and focused interests for vocation and leisure time. Students’ work throughout the lessons culminates in the creation of a personal self-advocacy portfolio, a living document that can be adjusted over the life span.

Visit the following link for more information about this book:  : Integrated Self-Advocacy
Other #AutismResources, #AutismTraining and #AutismSupportServices information may be found on our website:  http://education.missouristate.edu/access/

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Functional Communication Training

Jason has been pinching his classmates during free time and recess. His teacher is at her wit’s end and parents are complaining. A consultant at the school has assisted the teacher in completion of a Functional Behavior Assessment or FBA, and together they have determined the reason Jason is pinching is to gain the attention of his classmates. (An FBA is a multi-step assessment to get to the reason or function of a problem behavior, and this process is reviewed in Fact Sheet 26: Functional Behavioral Assessment.) The consultant and teacher now have a good idea why Jason is pinching. They know the function of the pinching. That is going to make a difference in how they will address the problem.

Jason wants the attention of his friends. That’s a good thing, and his teacher wants to help him. She and the consultant are going to use Functional Communication Training (FCT) to help. Jason has speech and language deficits and is not well understood by others. FCT is aimed at giving an individual a more appropriate and socially acceptable communication alternative to challenging behavior. Jason has an iPad with an app downloaded that can be programmed to speak for him. Maybe Jason can be taught to use the app to “ask” others to play with him. Definitely worth a try…

Jason is now using the iPad app to get his friends’ attention. The other students think it is cool that his iPad can speak, and Jason has almost eliminated pinching. It took significant training, but the attention of his friends is reinforcing, and he has maintained his use of the iPad.

It wasn’t what Jason wanted that was a problem. It was the way he was expressing his desire.

This scenario illustrates the premise of Functional Communication Training. It is the replacement of inappropriate behavior with a more appropriate behavior. That statement doesn’t go far enough, though. The appropriate behavior has to meet the same function or get the child the same thing as the inappropriate behavior. That’s the tricky part. Jason pinched to engage his peers. He is now using the iPad to engage his peers. Both behaviors get the same result.

Let’s look at another scenario:

Julie hates math, and when the teacher gives her a math worksheet to complete, she swipes it off the table and puts her head down on the desk. A Functional Behavioral Assessment has been completed, and the conclusion is Julie is avoiding math worksheets. The teacher would like Julie to complete the worksheets, but it is more important to Julie’s future success that she behave in a more appropriate way. Remember, Functional Communication Training is an intervention focused on replacing a problem behavior with a more appropriate behavior that gets the child the same thing. Even though it seems counterintuitive, the teacher and consultant are going to teach Julie an appropriate way to avoid completion of the math worksheet. Later, procedures can be put in place to help Julie complete math worksheets. For right now, the staff and Julie’s family are happy she is learning better ways to communicate!

Functional Communication Training can involve multiple modes of communication. Some students may need voice generating communication devices. Others may use sign language or exchange pictures. Still others may be able to use their own voices. Whatever the mode, FCT is an important strategy when faced with challenging behavior. Remember though: it is not the message that is a problem; it is the way the message is conveyed! Another way of expressing this is with the term functional equivalence. Both the challenging behavior and the alternative, more appropriate behavior, meet the same function. They are functionally equivalent!

©Project ACCESS – 2017 – Terri Carrington, M.A., CCC-SLP
#ProjectACCESSfactsheet   #Behavior
This fact sheet and other #AutismResources, #AutismTraining and #AutismSupportServices information may be found on our website:  http://education.missouristate.edu/access/


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Time Delay

Consider this scenario: Sandy is provided discrete trial sessions in her preschool setting. The teacher is noticing she is having to provide quite a bit of prompting to encourage Sandy to respond. As the teacher reviewed video of the sessions, she realized she was not giving Sandy much time to respond at all and wondered whether, given more time, Sandy might respond on her own. The teacher is concerned Sandy is becoming dependent on the prompts and will struggle to reach independence with the skill. The teacher decided to implement time delay.

There are two types of Time Delay, and information from the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder describes both as follows: With progressive time delay, teachers and other practitioners gradually increase the waiting time between an instruction and any prompts that might be used to elicit a response from a learner. With constant time delay, there is no delay between the instruction and prompt when a learner is first learning a skill. However, with constant time delay, a fixed amount of time is always used between the instruction and the prompt as the learner becomes more proficient at using the new skill.  

Debra Leach, in her book, Bringing ABA into Your Inclusive Classroom: A Guide to Improving Outcomes for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders says, “The time delay strategy is often not used enough when working with students with ASD.” We are quick to prompt, which can lead to prompt dependency. Leach cautions to implement the time delay in a supportive manner. Look at the child expectantly, but if there is no response after the time you have determined, go ahead and prompt.

One of the specialists at Project ACCESS recalls recording a language sample for a little girl. On review of the sample, it became clear the student was taking fully 6 seconds to respond. Staff members working with this student would be wise to implement time delay to avoid her becoming dependent on prompts presented too quickly.

Use of prompting may be an effective strategy, but adding time delay before prompting may prevent prompt dependence in some students.

Information for this fact sheet from:

Time Delay: Steps for Implementation published by the National Professional Development Center on ASD 10/2010.

Bringing ABA Into Your Inclusive Classroom: A Guide to Improving Outcomes for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders by Debra Leach, Ed.D., BCBA; published by Paul H. Brookes Publishing, 2010.

©Project ACCESS – 2017 – Terri Carrington, MA, CCC-SLP

#EvidenceBasedIntervention #MAGI
This fact sheetand other #AutismResources, #AutismTraining and #AutismSupportServices information may be found on our website:  http://education.missouristate.edu/access/


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