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Book Review

‘Facilitating Early Communication Skills’ Great Resource on Children with Autism

By John M. Williams

Readers should know these qualities about Pamela Rollins: She is an excellent writer, she is a pioneer in supporting teachers and speech language pathologists in developing language and social communication-based preschool classrooms, and she is totally dedicated to raising levels of communication between children with autism spectrum disorder and their families, their peers and their friends.

Her book, “Facilitating Early Communication Skills: From Theory to Practice,” clearly shows these dominant traits

. This is a teaching book, a treasure trove of information for teachers, speech-language pathologists and parents of children with ASD. Rollins’ book is divided into five chapters representing the theoretical and organizational framework of social pragmatic intervention, including 12 instructional units, each focused on a particular theme chosen to be developmentally appropriate and functional in the lives of the children (i.e., bedtime, birthday party, restaurant).

Each chapter begins with a learner objective. Chapter 1, “Dimensions of Treatment,” discusses seven learner objectives. Some of them include defining autism spectrum disorders, describing evidence-based practices, and explaining why the social pragmatic approach meets many of the criteria set by the Division for Early Childhood and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

In the first chapter, Rollins defines ASD as a heterogeneous neurodevelopmental disorder that severely compromises the development of social relatedness, reciprocity, social communication, joint attention and learning.

Although there is no cure for ASD, early identification and intervention make a significant difference in improving a child’s level of functioning, thereby ensuring better longterm outcomes.

A key section of Chapter 2, “Early Social Communication Development,” is this: “A core tenet of the developmental social pragmatic approach is that all children, including children with ASD, develop social communication and language skills in similar sequence. Because social communication is a core deficit area for children with ASD, it is important for teachers and therapists who work with children on the spectrum to be familiar with the developmental course of three interrelated components of social communication: social cognition, communicative intentions and the process of word learning. When considered together, these three components give rise to three distinct levels of early communication development.”

Three levels of children are discussed. A Level 1 child does not communicate directly with others because he does not have communicative intention. Intervention for a Level 2 child should structure the environment to facilitate engagement in a joint cooperative activity. Level 3 children have a mutual understanding with their communicative partner. They understand that they have shared goals and can interact together in a relationship.

Chapter 3, “Key Program Components,” focuses on the primary elements that facilitate social communication through the lenses of joint cooperative activities. After completing the chapter, readers will be able to name two key components of classroom-based developmental social- pragmatic intervention, list four criteria for writing a goal, know how to choose the words to include in a child’s core functional vocabulary, define nonlinguistic comprehension strategies and discuss why it is important to be aware of emotional regulation when working with children with ASD.

Chapter 4, “The Early Class Daily Schedule,” was developed as a preschool-based intervention program for children on the autism spectrum ages 3-5. In this chapter, Rollins uses the Early Class to show how the components discussed in Chapter 3 can be integrated into a preschool class. Rollins writes that “children with ASD are often more emotionally regulated and available for learning when they know what to expect. In the Early Class, there is a predictable sequence of events across the entire day and activity schedules are followed within specific activities. Transitions between activities are clearly marked through core vocabulary or by pairing spoken language with picture symbols.”

Some of the challenges issued in this chapter are: What factors should be considered when designing a schedule of activities? Why are transitions important? How would you rewrite a children’s book to facilitate a child’s comprehension and joint attention? List two functional activities to increase the use of cross-context communication between the home and school environments.

Chapter 5, “Instructional Units,” is by far the longest chapter. Some of the information we learn in this chapter are: each unit is a theme that with input from parents was selected to be developmentally appropriate, functional and motivating for family; each unit centers on a picture book that introduces a theme and new vocabulary; the books and book boards for each unit are examples of how to utilize commercially available picture books and rewrite them to meet the needs of Level 2 and Level 3 children.

Also discussed are: How should weekly themes be selected? What changes should be made to the classroom for each weekly theme? Which activities during the classroom day change each week to reflect the theme? For effectiveness, the book is loaded with hundreds of pictures and many figures and tables.

If I had a child with ASD, I would buy this book (the cost is $79.95) and give it to my child’s school. The activities listed in the book are practical, and I believe they can bear fruit. I found the book to be a treasure trove of useful information. I learned a lot from it.

The book is published by AAPC Publishing. To learn more about the company, visit www.aapcpublishing.net.


John M. Williams specializes in writing about disability issues. His website address is www.atechnews.com.


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