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My Child is Struggling with Speech and Language

ICRWY Lessons app

SSP Spelling Piano app

Our Different Language - Let's ODL!

Raising or working with non-verbal or minimally verbal children, who can't yet read and spell?
Or a parent of a toddler and you are interested in teaching them a unique way to communicate?

Speech and Language Therapy combined with Orthographic Learning.
Our Different Language - Speech Sound Monster Mapping 
- Connecting Spoken and Written English

The communication program for parents designed to support language and emotional connection at home.
We may not be able to yodel but we can ODL :-)   

e are Monster Mappers.

We are Speech Sound Monster Mappers!

We must ensure that brains that learn differently aren’t constrained - and can learn at their lightening speed pace.

Even if the child isn’t acquiring language as expected, don’t underestimate what’s happening in their brains. This is why tech is a game changer for so many. It can keep up.


About 25 percent of children with autism are nonverbal. Yet there is a lack of rigorous studies measuring the effectiveness of different therapies for these children (Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience).

Children typically learn language in part by connecting objects and images with their names and other related words, a process known as word-to-world mapping. Research suggests that this process is disrupted in nonverbal children with autism. 

As outlined within this article, from lead researcher Isabelle Soulières, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Quebec in Montreal. 'even children with autism who we think appear as low-functioning might have intellectual potential that we are either not aware of, or underestimate,” Soulières and her team studied 30 children with autism who had little or no verbal ability. None of the children could complete the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children — a widely used intelligence test that relies heavily on verbal communication. But when the scientists used a picture-based test called the Raven’s Colored Progressive Matrices, 65 percent of the children scored in the normal range. Ten percent ranked in the 90th percentile.

In this test, participants complete a set of puzzle-like matrices by inserting the correct piece into the blank spot. No verbal instructions are given; the tester simply points to the blank space.

The researchers also administered the Children’s Embedded Figure Test, which involves finding hidden pictures, and visual search tests, in which the child locates a particular symbol amongst many similar symbols. Results for all three tests correlated. The consistency of these scores suggests that picture-based tests can reliably reveal intellectual ability in these children — one rooted in spatial rather than verbal skills.

“I think that developing alternative assessments for children with autism could uncover hidden potential and result in adaptations to how they are taught at school,” says Soulières. I can easily believe that traditional tests underestimate some children with severe autism. One low-verbal girl I’ve met, 12-year-old Hanna Suzuki, was underestimated due to her limited verbal and motor skills. For years, teachers assumed that she had a significant intellectual delay. When she was 10, she was assigned first-grade math problems even though, it later surfaced, the math was far too easy for her. Using her body effectively and verbalizing the answers had been the obstacle.

Finally, last year Hanna tried a therapy called the Rapid Prompting Method. This approach, which teaches people to communicate by typing, often reveals that students have already taught themselves to read and spell. In a low-distraction environment, children gradually learn to focus, and to coordinate their bodies enough to point. They then learn to insert a stick through letters in a stencil and, sometimes, even to type.

Slowly and laboriously, Hanna can now peck out sentences on an iPad or keyboard. Though she struggles to hit the right keys and stay on task, her writing reflects thoughtful, age-appropriate language. When I asked about her past school experiences, she typed: “The work was not at my level,” referring to the lack of challenge. “I felt incapable.”

Hanna is now studying algebra and enjoys grade-level science lessons. She even interviews people in the community about their jobs, as a part of her therapy. “[My life] has changed tremendously,” she wrote. “I am so hopeful.”


Speech Sound Monsters - Monster Mapping!

Sign language may work in conjunction with other approaches for children who have some verbal skills, but it does not improve speech in most nonverbal children with autism. Children who have autism and impaired motor skills often have difficulty signing and struggle with imitation and symbolic representation.

That message has eluded clinicians: A survey of specialists from 69 school districts in California found that many consider sign language training an effective intervention for autism.

Another commonly used autism therapy, the picture exchange communication system (PECS), seems better able to improve language abilities, imitation and joint attention — following the gaze of another — in nonverbal children with autism. Unlike sign language, PECS does not require fine motor skills.

Researchers compared PECS with Responsive Education and Prelinguistic Milieu Teaching, a therapy with two components: showing parents how to play with their children in ways that encourage language development, and teaching children gestures, joint attention and speech through play.

Compared with this method, PECS is more successful at helping nonverbal children with autism increase their frequency and range of spoken words after six months of treatment.

Multiple studies also show encouraging results from the Early Start Denver Model, a play-based therapy. This approach improves language and behavioral skills, and encompasses reciprocal imitation training, which improves imitation, pretend play, language and joint attention skills, according to a small study.

Three other therapies — prompts for restructuring oral muscular phonetic targetsauditory-motor mapping treatment and electromagnetic brain stimulation — have each been assessed in a single study of nonverbal children with autism. More research is needed to measure their effectiveness, the researchers say. 

Interventions that have targeted children younger than 5 years old yield better speech and language improvements than those aimed at older children, the new study found.


Are you using Speech Sound Monsters with non-verbal autistic children? We are gathering data in order to publish research in the UK. Would you be interested in getting involved? We have had incredible results with autistic children with regards to learning to read before they start school, using our Reading Ready Brains program. We can easily measure this.
But how does it impact on their speech, when non-verbal? This is harder to measure but worthy of exploration scientifically.

Miss Emma 
BEd Hons. MA SEN. Doctoral Student, University of Reading (UK) 

Use with the Spelling Piano app for tablets!
Go to the Monster Screen

Follow the Monster Sounds
to say the Word!

Access free lessons with Miss Emma, using books, and download the Monster Mapped Words!

You can also order Monster Mapped Name cards.

Milly - Little Mappers! - Speech Sound Monsters
We are Speech Sound Monster Mappers!
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