Autism can affect speech, language development and social communication in many ways. One student may not have the ability to speak at all, another might repeat everything that is said without understanding the words and reason for saying it, and a third student might be able to speak but not carry on a conversation. Many children on the spectrum also have trouble interpreting verbal and nonverbal cues from others, such as facial expressions, tone of voice and body language.
Our speech pathologists screen each student at the beginning of the school year and work with the family and school to develop a plan to improve the student’s communication skills. If the student is nonverbal, alternatives to speech can be introduced such as electronic “talkers,” picture boards, and applications on the iPad.
Students participate in speech therapy sessions during the school day on a weekly basis.
Potential Development has three occupational therapists on staff to work with the students. Students meet with their therapists on a weekly basis during the school day to work on the goals set forth in the student’s IEP.
Occupational therapy also helps students with sensory integration problems to learn what types of activities help them feel better. This helps a student focus in class, behave better, have less tantrums/meltdowns and be less afraid of activities that other kids enjoy. Some coping methods include rocking, swinging, upside-down activities, scooter activities and therapy balls.
Physical therapy can be beneficial for children who struggle with movement that causes functional limitations. Children with autism frequently have challenges with motor skills such as sitting, walking, running or jumping. Physical therapy can address poor muscle tone, balance and coordination.
Students meet with their therapist on a weekly basis during the school day to work on the goals set forth in the student’s IEP.
Potential Development also features sensory rooms at the three main locations. A sensory room is a dark room that fosters an atmosphere of relaxation, which provides students a calming and peaceful environment to decompress from sensory stimulation. Sensory rooms are proven to:
- Enhance sensory skills and hand-eye coordination.
- Assist in the development of social and emotional skills.
- Reduce tension and increase relaxation.
- Improve levels of concentration, alertness, calmness and general awareness.
The physical and occupational therapists sometimes use the room during their sessions with students, but the rooms are also available for staff use when a student is having a difficult time transitioning during the day.